Mayor Schmoke says the city could be forced to lay off municipal workers in order to close a big budget shortfall next year, although so far it isn't known how many workers might be affected or how large the deficit will be. But last year officials made plans to lay off 1,000 workers when confronted with a $48 million shortfall, and Schmoke has indicated that this year's budget gap will be at least as large.
How bad the crunch gets may depend on how the city fares in Annapolis. Last year, an 11th-hour infusion of state aid, plus increases in nuisance taxes and a hiring freeze, enabled officials to squeeze by without putting anybody out of work. This year the recession will make it harder to pull off a repeat performance.
That's why municipal layoffs, coming on top of those in the private sector, threaten Baltimore with a triple whammy. The city surely would end up paying unemployment benefits to many of the affected workers, while losing both their services and their tax revenues. By the time all the costs were added up the city could find itself mired more deeply than ever in red ink.