City ponders massive cuts Every agency will feel impact of state cuts.

October 08, 1991|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

Baltimore's loss of $21.1 million in state aid could mean that a student would not get medical care from a school nurse.

The loss could mean that a welfare recipient trying to train for a job would lose a child-care stipend or that restaurants and other food vendors would not be inspected to ensure they were clean.

This was just part of the bad news the City Council and a dozen members of the city's legislative delegation received during a briefing last night by city budget officials on the impact of proposed state budget cuts.

In addition to $10.4 million in state aid mandated for specific programs, a loss of another $10.75 million that goes into the city's general fund would mean a 6 percent across-the-board budget reduction for every city agency, the impact of which is yet to be known.

If the 6 percent cuts were accomplished through the elimination of personnel, it could mean the loss of 700 to 850 positions.

"Every agency is to report back by Oct. 21 how they plan to reduce their budget by the 6 percent," said William R. Brown Jr., city finance director.

And every agency means police, fire and education, departments that were spared in recent budget reductions.

And Brown warned that the city will no longer be in a position to rob Peter to pay Paul.

"We can't move funds from one agency to prevent reductions in the police department, for instance," Brown said. "Every agency will take a hit this time."

At a news conference last week, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and his finance officials broadly outlined the effects of the loss in state aid, brought on by the state's having to cut its budget by $450 million. Those included:

* Dropping of 1,200 children from a prekindergarten program that helps prepare 4-year-olds for school.

* The closing of some branches of the Enoch Pratt Free Library and curtailment of hours at others.

Last night, city Budget Director Edward L. Gallagher gave council members the gory details of what cuts in state aid to local governments would mean. Included in his list of cuts were:

* $1.49 million in state aid to the Health Department for nursing services in the schools.

* $2.7 million for alcohol and drug treatment programs.

* $850,000 for the Futures Program that offers counseling and incentives for students at risk of dropping out of school. The teacher-student ratio of this pro-gram would have to be increased from 1-20 to as much as 1-35, and the number of outside advocates who offer students incentives to stay in school would be reduced.

* $110,000 in the state allowance program that provides weekly stipends for transportation and child care for economically disadvantaged job trainees.

* $309,300 for restaurant and food inspection, totally eliminating the program.

Gallagher told the council that in addition to the state cuts the city is looking at getting $3 million less in projected income tax revenue from the state.

And if the state seeks to reduce aid to local education, the city would lose $30 million to $35 million, and Gallagher said that would be devastating to the city.

Brown noted that these cuts affect the current fiscal 1992 budget, which ends June 30, and predicted gloomily that the situation probably will get worse for the fiscal 1993 budget.

"If the state legislature does not come up with both a short-range and a long-range plan of raising revenue and more equally distributing all state revenue, then the city cannot continue to provide the services it is providing," said Brown. "That means for the next budget we are going to have to prioritize our services and, in the end, eliminate some."

Reaction from council members ranged from a call to impose a commuter tax to an intensive lobbying effort in Annapolis, such as that put out by state troopers, who apparently have the legislature ready to restore the jobs of 83 state troopers.

"We need to go down to Annapolis with the very Baltimore city residents these cuts will hurt and let the governor, the legislators and the media see them," said Councilman Lawrence Bell, D-4th.

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