Baltimore City Council Chair Bernard E. “Jack” Young (left) and Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (right).
On the heels of a threatened government shut-down, the Baltimore City Council approved Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s $2.6 billion budget on June 20. The budget includes cuts to library services, property tax cuts for home-owners, and $4.2 million in cuts to city services to make up for funding that was recently moved to fund after-school programs.
The FY 2017 budget was approved after a contentious period of verbal sparring between City Council Chair Bernard E. “Jack” Young and Mayor Rawlings-Blake. Young threatened to delay voting for the budget unless $4.2 million in funding was restored to youth after-school and supplemental programs. Rawlings-Blake in turn accused Young of grandstanding before making cuts in city services needed to restore the youth funding.
Rawlings-Blake expressed satisfaction with Monday’s budget’s approval. “This has been a challenging process that required tough choices to be made from all sides. I am happy that we as City leaders were able to reach a compromise on how to best serve the citizens of Baltimore,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement.
Young agreed that budget negotiations were difficult but productive. “We recognized early on that the Mayor’s budget was lean and didn’t offer many areas for trimming,” Young said in a statement. “But my Council colleagues and I were determined to comb over the budget in the least disruptive way possible to find savings to help restore after-school programming and thanked the Mayor for her willingness to compromise.”
And lean is the operative word for the budget passed by a 12-0 vote by the City Council. The budget includes $100,00 cuts each in litter reduction initiatives and library system services; a $1 million dollar reduction in raises for city-managers and reductions in public health, tree maintenance, graffiti removal, bridge repair, preventative maintenance and code enforcement inspections.
A $10 million increase is included for city Schools. Mayor Rawlings-Blake indicated additional funding was allocated to Baltimore public schools this year due to a decline in state aid. Still in question is whether the $10 million is enough to meet state requirements for Baltimore’s contribution to public school education.
The budget also includes $6 million for the Charm City Circulator and an additional $6 million to purchase body cameras for Baltimore City Police. Mayor Rawlings-Blake has proposed a 4 percent increase in parking taxes that requires City Council approval, to bolster city income and help close the $60 million gap between revenue and expenses. The City Council will meet on June 23 to set the property tax rate and finalize the City budget by the June 25 deadline required by the City Charter.