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Reworked Baltimore Budget Proposes City Employee Pay Freeze

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AP/PATRICK SEMANSKY
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  When Baltimore’s budget director Bob Cenname presented the city’s fiscal year 2021 budget in late March, he called it “largely irrelevant.” 

That’s because the coronavirus pandemic had dealt an enormous blow to the city’s revenue stream, a loss of $103 million. With fewer people driving, working and traveling, the city is collecting less in taxes.

The budget, which is traditionally written over the course of a year, was completely rewritten in  April. On Wednesday, Cenname and his staff presented the revised budget, which accounts for the revenue loss and proposes trimmed spending across agencies.

“This was an incredibly difficult budget process,” Mayor Jack Young said. “Every city and county in the country are facing difficult budgetary decisions, and Baltimore is no different.”  

The budget includes a freeze on city employee pay at current levels as well as cutting 240 vacant city positions. Layoffs are “the last thing I want to do,” Young said. “I know that when someone is laid off, it affects a whole family. It can put them into homelessness.”

The mayor offered three different cost-cutting plans to unions across the city last month, which included different combinations of pay cuts, furloughs and layoffs. 

“I’m waiting for a response back,” the Democrat said. “It's up to how they want to accept it.”  

The budget also moves 31 Baltimore Police Department officers from specialized units to patrol and reduces BPD’s “Foxtrot” helicopter flying hours from 16 to 12 a day.

It also directs $1.4 million toward the creation of two new Baltimore Community Intelligence Centers, which Young said are modeled on the Chicago Police Department’s Strategic Decision Support Centers, which bring police, attorneys and analysts together to tackle crime on a district-wide basis. 

The mayor had originally planned to fund seven additional centers, but cut the number to save about $3.4 million, budget director Cenname said.

The budget proposal was presented to the city’s spending board on Wednesday. Next, it will be reviewed by the City Council.

On Monday, Young held a news conference with state and local leaders asking Congress to send money to cities and localities to assist with pandemic-related revenue loss.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.
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