Baltimore Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. wants city workers to consider this: Wouldn't you prefer a little less money in your paycheck than a pink slip in the mail?
The way Mr. D'Adamo sees it, additional budget cuts are coming sooner or later. Gov. William Donald Schaefer's latest proposal would yank $13.3 million from the city.
The 1st District councilman is proposing a pay cut for city employees -- elected officials included -- that could raise $16 million, offset future layoffs and possibly convince some veterans to retire early.
"I see this as twofold," said Mr. D'Adamo, "getting rid of the fat in city government . . . people who have 30-35 years who can afford to retire. And for the people on the lower- and middle-class level, keeping them all working instead of them being laid off." Under Mr. D'Adamo's plan, city employees who earn more than $50,000 -- about 492 workers -- would have their salaries cut by 4 percent. Employees who earn less than $50,000 -- the overwhelming majority of the city's 29,000 municipal workers -- would have their annual pay cut by 2 percent.
Any pay cut would have to be negotiated with the unions representing city workers -- and at least two labor leaders adamantly opposed Mr. D'Adamo's proposal.
"We're not for anybody taking pay cuts," said Irene Dandridge, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union. Her members already have had to take a five-day furlough as part of the city's plan to absorb the first wave of state budget cuts.
Mrs. Dandridge said city teachers bore the brunt of the first cut. She said city officials should have considered across the board furloughs "so that the burden would have been shared equally by all city employees."
When Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke tried to absorb the last round of state budget cuts, the jobs of 252 firefighters were on the line. To save those jobs, the firefighters' union agreed to give up a 6 percent negotiated pay raise in return for a mayoral promise that no firefighter would be laid off before June 30. Bob Sledgeski, treasurer of Baltimore Firefighters Local 734, wasn't too impressed with Mr. D'Adamo's plan. "Our membership just gave up what they thought was as much as they could give up," he said. "We're not convinced of the need at this point."
How the city will fare under the next round of state budget cuts is uncertain. Mr. Schaefer's latest proposal, which would mean a loss of $13.3 million in state revenue for the city, has to be approved by state legislators, who do not convene until Jan. 8. Legislators may develop a plan that could hit local subdivisions harder, but at the same time give them the taxing authority to make up the lost funds.
Still, Mr. D'Adamo is certain cuts will come. And, in these tough economic times, he wants to make sure city workers stay on the job.
"The unions are going to have to fight for their people. When the pink slips are handed out, they also have to fight for their people," Mr. D'Adamo said. "I think they have to realize this is a fair way that keeps people working, and no one is laid off."