Mayor Kurt Schmoke is delaying plans to transfer four municipal day-care centers to private operators, a move that would have meant layoffs for 51 city employees and annual savings of about $900,000 for the financially strapped city.
Schmoke decided to halt plans for the transfers after hearing complaints Tuesday from surprised union officials and learning about snags in deals being worked out with private operators.
"I'd hoped that we would have agreements in hand by now," Schmoke said. "But now I'm not sure whether all the agreements will be in hand by July 1. We may have to continue for a year with the employment situation status quo."
Schmoke also said he was concerned that the city's Urban Services Agency, which runs the centers, did not inform workers about the possible changes.
Day-care workers at four centers run by the Urban Services received layoff notices Monday. The notices, which shocked employees, said their city jobs would be terminated at the end of June.
But Cheryl Boykins Glenn, president of the City Union of Baltimore, which represents 44 of the affected employees, said the mayor told her the notices will be rescinded.
Glenn said the CUB employees who were slated for layoffs are paid an average of about $19,000 a year -- a figure that probably would decrease under a private operator.
"These people can't afford a cut in pay," she said. "Many are single parents who need city benefits. Also, there is a concern for parents who are used to having centers with little staff turnover."
The four city-run day-care centers are at the Cherry Hill Multipurpose Center, Federal Hill Elementary School, the Dunbar Middle School complex and the New Community College of Baltimore.
The all-day centers enroll a total of 320 children, whose parents or guardians pay a sliding-scale fee pegged to their income.
"I decided that we should get out of the business of being a direct provider of day care," Schmoke said. "We should try to create as many private slots and home-care positions as possible, but we should not be the ones providing the care. Also, the day-care centers we run are the most expensive to operate in the city."
Among the possible operators identified by the city to take over the day-care centers are the Young Men's Christian Association, the Baltimore Urban League and St. Veronica's Catholic Church, Schmoke said.