Schmoke edict: new employees must live in city Policy to start July 1

city unions oppose the change

May 14, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer Staff writer Marina Sarris contributed to this article.

All new municipal workers would have to become Baltimore City residents within a year after the start of their employment, under an edict being issued today by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

A separate order covering employees of the Police Department -- legally a state agency -- will be issued "very shortly" by Commissioner Edward V. Woods, the mayor said yesterday.

The new policy, announced at a news briefing, covers all employees hired as of July 1 and requires that they must remain residents of the city to keep their jobs.

It does not apply to employees now on the city payroll. Currently, 8,121 members of the city's full-time work force of 24,427, or 33 percent, live beyond Baltimore's boundaries, city figures show.

Last year, the city hired 1,137 new workers, said Jesse E. Hoskins, personnel director for the Civil Service Commission.

Mr. Schmoke said the residency requirement, which he has been considering for more than a year, "makes a lot of sense for Baltimore" because it would encourage workers to be more "sensitive to the needs of their communities" and provide increased tax revenue to the city.

The city now receives an estimated $7.9 million in income tax revenue from the salaries of the 16,306 workers who live in the city, according to figures cited by the mayor. If all municipal employees were city residents, the city would get an additional $4.8 million in income tax revenue, the figures show. Income taxes are paid based on place of residence, not employment.

In initiating a residency requirement, Baltimore becomes the latest city to impose restrictions on where its employees may live, joining such major municipalities as Chicago, New York and Philadelphia.

The residency requirement enjoys broad support in the City Council, where a resolution urging the mayor to impose such a requirement was introduced Monday. But it drew criticism from leaders of city unions representing thousands of workers, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and two suburban legislators.

Lt. Lee Nevin, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3, said the city should "hire the best people they can. . . . Why discriminate because of where someone lives? You can't discriminate for any other reason." A greater percentage of police officers -- 64 percent -- live outside the city than any other category of worker.

Governor Schaefer said on his weekly show on WBAL radio that he had considered a similar requirement while he was mayor of Baltimore but rejected it because he felt it could anger suburban officials and cause them to withdraw their political support for the city in the state legislature.

The legislators -- Del. Robert L. Flanagan, chairman of the Howard County delegation, and Del. Maddox Farrell, who heads the Baltimore County delegation -- said they would introduce legislation in the 1994 General Assembly prohibiting any subdivision from discriminating in employment against state residents on the basis of where they live.

"I think it's grossly unfair, particularly in light of all the state aid Baltimore City has received over the years," Delegate Flanagan said.

"People are fed up with the short-sighted decisions of Baltimore City. This is a perfect example," he added.

Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden said through a spokeswoman that the county was "looking at all the ramifications of executing this decision," including its constitutionality.

But Mayor Schmoke said the residency requirement was neither an anti-suburban nor an anti-regionalism measure. "It's important note we're not saying a county resident can't become a city employee. We're just saying as a condition of employment we feel you must live in the city," Mr. Schmoke said.

"One of the things you have to do in order to have real good regionalism is to have a real strong central core. One of the ways that we can do that is to have all of our employees living here, purchasing goods here, providing income tax, participating in city neighborhoods," the mayor added.

City employment figures show that the percentage of workers choosing to live outside the city increases as their income rises. Of 5,161 workers earning under $20,000, for example, 93 percent live in the city, according to the figures. But of 913 workers making over $50,000, only 56 percent live in the city, they say.

"We would like to encourage in the strongest possible way these [upper-income] employees to live in the city," Mr. Schmoke said.

Mr. Schmoke's residency requirement will replace a long-standing city practice that gives "preference" in hiring to city residents but allows mayoral waivers for nonresidents. He said the practice was "awkward and cumbersome and not very clear."

He said "as a practical matter" he might have to grant waivers for hard-to-hire employees such as health-care workers but said it would be "extremely difficult" for agency heads to obtain the waivers.

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