City plans to lay off 44 employees with job training agency

June 05, 1991|By Martin C. Evans

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who had hoped to balance a $54 million shortfall in the Baltimore fiscal 1992 budget without layoffs, plans to fire 44 employees in the Office of Employment Development because of a $2.3 million cut in state and federal government job training grants.

"All of these people were being paid for by federal funds; these federal funds got cut so they've got to go," the mayor's spokesman, Clinton R. Coleman Jr., said yesterday.

"I can say that I don't expect there to be any other layoffs," Mr. Coleman said. "We can't make any promises because of these state and federal cutbacks."

Mr. Coleman said the layoffs are the only ones the city made in order to balance the budget for fiscal year 1992, which begins July 1. He said he believes no other layoffs will be needed.

The layoffs, which are scheduled to go into effect June 28, will affect OED employees ranging from the level of program coordinator to clerical workers.

Barbara A. Davis, spokeswoman for the employment development agency, said her department froze hiring, cut back on contracts and implemented other austerity measures with the hope of avoiding layoffs last fall, when they realized that a cut in federal job training money could be passed along to the city.

"But eventually, it became clear that we were going to have to handle this through personnel reductions," said Ms. Davis, who said employees were notified of the layoffs Friday.

The cutback is particularly frustrating to OED officials because the Schmoke administration has been trying to broaden the tax base and improve the quality of life in the city by helping welfare recipients and unemployed individuals to return to the work force.

For example, a computer-assisted job skills program at the Lafayette Court public housing project in West Baltimore has provided training for a number of single mothers.

The 425-employee agency provides a range of job training services, including literacy programs, high school equivalency training and career counseling to about 15,000 people a year, Ms. Davis said. The agency trains people who are among the most difficult to prepare for careers, including young mothers on welfare who have never had jobs, high school dropouts with few skills or former factory workers whose skills are no longer in demand.

"This will have an effect, there is no question," Ms. Davis said of the layoffs. "We were hoping to expand to meet the needs of youth and welfare clients in particular, which is a long-time proposition. But we think we can hold the line on services."

Ms. Davis also said that the city will be forced to provide 300 fewer summer jobs this year than last for young people 14 to 21 because of a 7 percent reduction in a Jobs Training Partnership Act grant.

The reduction in summer jobs comes at a time when a higher minimum wage and a slow economy are expected to discourage private employers from hiring younger workers, Ms. Davis said.

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