Yesterday, the ax fell.
Sixty-eight city employees -- forty-five of the city's 114 housing inspectors and 23 geriatric-health workers -- were told yesterday they wouldn't have jobs as of Feb. 1 because of the loss of $1.7 million in federal money the state had pledged to the city.
The layoffs hit two city programs, one aimed at curbing the rat population and another that provides temporary, at-home care for low-income elderly residents.
"From my point of view, it is a real shame because we are not only losing dedicated public servants, but we are also losing vital services for people who need them," said Robert W. Hearn, director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, which manages the anti-rat program.
"Rat eradication is vitally important to the health and safety of our neighborhoods," Dr. Hearn said.
Cuts in federal money funneled through the state are expected to cause more layoffs, another city official said.
The state, reeling under a $423 million deficit, transferred to other state programs Jan. 1 $1.7 million in federal aid it had pledged to Baltimore, city officials said.
Joanne Selinske, an aide to Mayor Schmoke, said the cuts soon would force the city to fire 43 more employees, including day-care workers, public housing counselors and a teacher and four aides at the Lawrence G. Paquin School for pregnant girls.
Ms. Selinske said the loss in the middle of the city's fiscal year meant the city would not be able to collect state money it was promised and had already spent. For example, the parks department will not be reimbursed for $30,000 the state owes for 99 camp counselors who worked last summer.
"That money is going to have to come from somewhere because it's already been paid," she said. "I don't know how the city is going to work that out."
The state eliminated the $1.2 million rodent-control block grant -- federal aid it had been passed along to the city since 1983 -- and it reduced by $474,000 the $1.2 million federal Social Services Block Grant.
Dr. Hearn said that 14 city workers who set traps for rats would remain on the job but that the layoffs would include housing inspectors who now taught rat prevention techniques to residents.
He said the city would try to overcome the loss of the inspectors by asking community associations to take on some of their responsibilities. A pilot program in Rosemont, in which volunteers have been performing certain tasks of housing inspectors, has been successful, he said.
Ms. Selinske, who administers the social services grant, said the state's decision to withhold money probably would force the elimination of 11 jobs in private agencies that depend on grants from the city. Those agencies would include the Baltimore American Indian Center, the House of Ruth, the Kennedy Institute, the Sexual Assault Recovery Center, and the Baltimore Council on Adolescent Pregnancy, Parenting and Pregnancy Prevention Inc., she said.
"Generally speaking, it is less expensive to deliver those services by non-profit agencies," she said.