The City Council has proposed cutting Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s $2.8 billion operating budget by $6.1 million, a move her administration said will undermine public safety.
The City Council’s Committee of the Whole voted to approve several amendments to the budget ordinance during a voting session on Monday.
Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young wants the mayor to use the funds cut from the budget to pay for priorities, such as keeping recreation centers and three firehouses open.
The City Council has the ability to cut from the budget, but doesn't have the ability to add or direct where funds should be used.
The administration maintains that under the City Charter, the funds cut by the council cannot be used to pay for those programs. The administration also claims the cuts would force layoffs, cut funding for patrol officers, cut funding for trash pick up and small business programs.
"I am disappointed and very much disagree with the budget cuts that the City Council is advancing. The proposed cuts to the police department budget will undermine the progress we have made reducing crime in Baltimore and should be cause for serious concern," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement released to the media. "Other cities across the nation have made cuts to their police forces, and crime increased. Until now, Baltimore has invested in an aggressive plan to hire new police officers and crime has declined to historic lows."
Lester Davis, a spokesman for Young, said the administration's claims the amendments will result in police officers losing their jobs are false, and that the cuts only eliminate currently vacant positions included in the budget.
"It's a sad diversionary tactic by the administration. The citizens of Baltimore and the [City] Council are smarter than that," Davis said.
Earlier in the evening, the administration characterized Young's proposed cuts as irresponsible.
"It is remarkable that at the same time the council president is honoring Commissioner Bealefeld for reducing crime, he is seeking to enact irresponsible cuts to the police budget and eliminating funding for neighborhood police patrols," Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for the mayor, wrote in an email "If these cuts stand, police hiring could be scaled back considerably and that means fewer officers on the street."
At the end of the City Council's regular meeting on Monday evening, Young said he would take the high road and not respond to accusations that the cuts are irresponsible.