Assembly's budget action means all Pratt Library branches can stay open

April 12, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

The Enoch Pratt Free Library will have the money to keep all 28 of its branches open, courtesy of the Maryland General Assembly's budget action, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced yesterday.

The mayor's announcement ended months of reports that the city might have to close as many as eight of the neighborhood libraries.

Baltimore and five poor Maryland counties are due $30 million in additional aid under the $12.1 billion state operating budget passed Friday.

"Without the passage of the state budget and tax package, we would not have had enough money to keep these branches open," Mr. Schmoke said.

The mayor said he will still ask community groups to present plans for partnerships to help support their neighborhood libraries. The state aid is "just a one-year reprieve" for fiscal 1992-1993, he said. "This gives us some breathing room. It doesn't solve the problem."

The final decision on the branch libraries' fate rests with the Pratt's board of directors, library spokeswoman Averil J. Kadis pointed out yesterday. "Certainly the state budget passage raises hopes that all library branches can be kept open, but that is a decision that will have to be made by the board," she said.

Ms. Kadis said the library will not have a clear picture of its 1992-1993 budget until it has gone through the Board of Estimates and City Council.

The mayor chose to make his announcement at the Baltimore City Development Commission's annual hearing to discuss the diversion of military spending to beleaguered cities. The commission was created by a ballot initiative six years ago.

Mr. Schmoke sought to enlist representatives of community groups at the hearing to pressure Congress and President Bush to divert some of this year's "peace dividend" to the cities. That effort will require a change in current budget law, which restricts the use of money freed from the defense budget to reduction of the federal budget deficit.

"We must educate Congress and the public about the importance of cities, specifically, that cities are a primary source of labor, capital, research and technological expertise for the entire country," he said.

Representatives of 130 Baltimore religious, labor and civic organizations are expected to join their counterparts from other urban areas in a "Save Our Cities" march on Washington May 16.

Mr. Schmoke had a "wish list" ready for additional federal aid:

* Increase Federal Home Program financing to repair more of the 6,300 vacant houses in the city. Baltimore is due $10.3 million from the program, with $4 million earmarked for house construction or rehabilitation.

* Move families out of high-rise public housing, estimated cost, $17 million.

* Hire 233 additional police officers, $11 million a year. The mayor called for an increase in federal aid to fight drug-related street crime, but reiterated his conviction that treatment should be the primary weapon in the war on drugs.

* Use increased federal aid in schools to cut class sizes, raise teacher salaries, increase offerings

in art and music, put a school nurse in every school and incorporate "tech prep" training in biotechnology, life sciences, electronics and similar subjects into vocational education.

* Expand a federal program aimed at reducing infant mortality through prenatal care to all city neighborhoods, $5 million; expand lead paint abatement, $3 million.

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