State's budget ax forces choices on local agencies City can weather reduction by holding the line on spending

July 17, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

City officials expect to absorb a proposed cut of $5.7 million in state aid to Baltimore by holding the line on overall spending.

"I think we can weather this storm," said Baltimore Budget Chief Edward J. Gallagher. "We can do it by additional belt-tightening, by forestalling hiring, and maybe by delaying capital projects."

He also mentioned the option of dipping into the $1.6 million Rainy Day Fund set up in anticipation of the continuing budget crisis.

"We're really going to have to clamp down," said Mr. Gallagher, who sent a letter to agency heads last week telling them to halt virtually all new spending.

Baltimore's cuts -- the second highest statewide in the $60 million deficit-reduction plan proposed Wednesday by the Schaefer administration -- would affect the city's police aid, health programs, the library system, and a handful of school programs.

The cuts proposed yesterday mean the city police department would not be able to hire 16 officers for foot patrol and 18 for a special Violent Crime Control unit.

Those two programs, which total $5 million, would be reduced by $1.2 million under the plan.

Police spokesman Sam Ringgold termed the reduction "unfortunate," given the recent jump in violent crime in the city.

The Enoch Pratt Free Library would take a $1.2 million hit from the state, but spokeswoman Averil J. Kadis said the library system should be able to sustain the cut, thanks to an additional $2 million the city included in its budget for the coming year.

"We are working on a plan to absorb the cuts, but have yet to work out the details," Mrs. Kadis said. "We don't anticipate taking the kind of drastic measures we took last year, when faced with state cuts."

Those measures included closing the central library downtown on Fridays, reducing hours at branch libraries, cutting book budgets and laying off 17 employees, 15 of whom were rehired July 1, Mrs. Kadis said.

"No one knows yet what the future fiscal health of the state might portend," she said. "But if we can keep our funds as they are today, with the city increase we were given this year, as of July 1, we certainly expect to stabilize our services and not have to make any drastic cuts."

It remained unclear yesterday what the loss of $1.8 million in state aid will mean to the city Health Department.

"I just don't know," said Acting Health Commissioner Elias A. Dorsey. "I just can't say."

School Superintendent Walter G. Amprey, whose agency would

lose $1.2 million in aid, echoed Mr. Gallagher's confidence but cautioned, "It worries me because this looks like it might be the sign of what's coming."

Eight school programs would be affected by the proposed cuts, including $512,000 for school food services -- a quarter of the $1.9 million budgeted this year for the state-subsidized program.

It provides free and reduced-price breakfasts and lunches to students who are eligible based on family income.

In addition, $196,000 would be trimmed from the Students with Disabilities program, the city's $36.8 million special education effort.

A $3.2 million pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds would lose $159,000.

Baltimore would lose $188,000 from the Children at Risk Program, the state's effort at dropout prevention.

Also, $53,000 would be cut from the $86,400 budgeted for adult education, primarily for high school equivalency efforts.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday delivered his speech to the Democratic National Convention in New York and was unavailable for comment.

Baltimore City cuts

Local health programs $1,839,629

Police aid $1,441,412

Non-mandated aid to education $2,414,559

Enoch Pratt Free Library $1,214,314

Food services in the schools $511,540

* Students with Disabilities

Program $195,876

# Extended Elementary

Education Program $159,007

/# Children at Risk Program (grant

to the Office of Employment

Development) $187,625

Adult Education $52,801

"Innovative Programs" $39,767

Community Centers $30,323

Disruptive Youth Program $23,305

TOTAL CUTS $5,695,600

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