Kleine: Budget Cuts Result in Charter Violation
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake released a memo to the media arguing the cuts would lead to a prohibited property tax surplus.
Proposed cuts to the Baltimore City budget totalling $6.1 million would violate the City Charter, according to a memo written by Budget Director Andrew Kleine.
"Passage of an Ordinance of Estimates at a level below the budget proposed by the Board of Estimates would result in a property tax revenue surplus, which the City Charter prohibits from being used for supplemental appropriations," Kleine wrote. "Surplus funding from the proposed cuts cannot be reallocated to other services."
In the memo, Kleine praises the current $2.8 billion operating budget, and is critical of cuts sought by some council members, and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young.
Cuts sought by the council will result in abolishing 10 police patrol positions, abolishing 15 waste removal position and eliminate funding for the Health Department to pay rent for its facilities, according to Kleine
The memo was released to the media the same day Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young sent an open letter to the mayor arguing the mayor should not reject the council’s budget plan.
Read the full memo below:
As the City’s Budget director, I wanted to take a moment to share some information with you about the proposed Fiscal 2013 budget. The budget plan was built around the Mayor’s vision for growing Baltimore's population by 10,000 families. To that end, the budget prioritizes spending on the key issues that matter most to Baltimore's families: crime reduction, public education, jobs and economic growth, and core City services for neighborhoods.
The plan closes a $48 million deficit while fully funding the City's obligation to public schools, continuing an aggressive plan to hire hundreds of new police officers to keep crime going down, and providing funding for street repair and blight elimination—all while cutting property taxes for city homeowners. Additionally, the budget supports significant funding for programs and services that impact the Baltimore's youth, despite the $48 million deficit, including:
- Increasing funding by $3.1 million for the Baltimore City Public School System. The City has increased school funding by $13.4 million over four years to meet its Maintenance of Effort requirement, while many wealthier counties have sought waivers from meeting their full payments.
- Increasing funding for the YouthWorks summer jobs program. This funding, together with participation from public and private employers, will support 5,000 summer job placements. The budget includes a $130,000 enhancement to support the placement of 350 youth in year-round employment. The City has only surpassed this number of job placements when it had federal stimulus funding.
- Maintaining funding for Youth Violence Prevention programs, including Operation Safe Kids.
- Funding school-based health centers to keep kids healthy and in school.
- Funding a new strategy by the Family League of Baltimore City for after school programs that will directly impact more students. Funds for these programs, which originated during the housing bubble, have been protected through an unprecedented fiscal crisis.
- Keeping all neighborhood library branches open to promote reading and lifelong learning.
- Opening new Community Job Hubs in neighborhoods hardest hit by the struggling economy.
- The Mayor has launched a new summer youth initiative called “Super Summer” which seeks to increase the number of city youth enrolled in summer meals, summer reading programs and Youthworks.
- In addition, if the proposed budget passes without amendments, the Mayor has pledged to increase “Child First” after school funding through the Family League, restore funding to Experience Corps, and prevent of demotions of Fire Department, among other issues.
The Rawlings-Blake Administration has already cut $48 million from the budget this year on top of closing more than $300 million in shortfalls over the last three budget cycles. Despite these major cuts that are already in place, some members of the City Council are seeking to cut an additional $6.3 million, including cutting resources to fight crime, which citizens consistently rank as their most pressing concern. The impacts of the Council-approved budget cut amendments include:
- 18 additional city employee layoffs in Police, Transportation, Finance, BDC and BOPA.
- Abolishing 10 police patrol positions, which would drive up overtime costs
- Abolishing 15 positions in waste removal and recycling at a time when only 30% of City residents are satisfied with the City’s cleanliness
- Abolishing 13 positions in street management, which would prevent the addition of a third repaving crew for neighborhood streets
- Eliminating funding needed by the Health Department to pay rent for its facilities
- Reducing or eliminating funding for positions in property tax billing integrity, accounting, procurement, and CitiStat, all of which were included in the budget to strengthen fiscal oversight
Again, these cuts are in addition to the $48 million in budget reductions already proposed in the budget.
The Mayor sent a letter to the City Council dated June 7 detailing her concerns about and alternative budget plan presented by the Council. Those concerns include that the plan relies on inflating revenue estimates, raiding an underfunded reserve to delay cost-saving reforms to health insurance plans, and making arbitrary funding cuts that would impact services across city government. The Mayor’s letter is attached.
Passage of an Ordinance of Estimates at a level below the budget proposed by the Board of Estimates would result in a property tax revenue surplus, which the City Charter prohibits from being used for supplemental appropriations (Article VI, Section 8(b)(1)). Surplus funding from the proposed cuts cannot be reallocated to other services.
Thank you for your interest in the City’s budget process. For more information and documents about the City’s budget, visit: http://www.baltimorecity.gov/Government/AgenciesDepartments/Finance/DocumentsReports.aspx