The city's rat eradication program won a last-minute reprieve today, as the city Board of Estimates voted to eliminate fewer than half of the jobs originally slated to be cut from the program.
The board today voted to eliminate 19 housing inspector jobs from the Department of Housing and Community Development, the result of a $1.1 million state budget cut ordered in December.
While city officials bemoaned that reduction, they said the loss is far better than the 45 inspector jobs that originally were expected to be eliminated because of the state cuts.
The city was able to reduce the number of layoffs after Gov. William Donald Schaefer last week agreed to allow cuts to be spread across a broader array of city services.
"We could not afford to be overrun by rats in Baltimore City," said Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who led members of the council's Housing Committee to meet with Schaefer last week.
The original size of the rat eradication layoff troubled city and employee union officials because it would have meant the elimination of one-third of the city's already understaffed 130-member housing inspection force.
Also, the way the state mandated the reductions would have caused employees with as much as 20 years of employment with the city to be laid off later this week.
"Now the layoffs simply will be done by seniority," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.
Schmoke said that, to make up for the restoration of some of the rat eradication jobs, the city will reduce contracts with several groups providing community-based health services.
"Most of the cuts are going to affect service providers and not public employees," Schmoke said.
Also, Schmoke said the issue will reappear during upcoming budget talks. The city is facing a $54.1 million budget shortfall next year, and Schmoke has warned that there could be widespread layoffs.
"This is like a reprieve," he said. "But we will have to come back to it as we look at the entire budget."