Mayor's budget heads to council with board's OK BALTIMORE CITY

June 24, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

In a meeting punctuated by sharp exchanges between Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, Baltimore's Board of Estimates yesterday approved the mayor's new fiscal 1994 budget and sent it to the City Council.

Mr. Schmoke's new budget replaces the one he vetoed Monday night. The new bill would provide funds for 60 new police officers by transferring money from the city's contribution to fire and police retirement funds to the Police Department's general patrol. It would restore cuts in a variety of capital projects the council made last Thursday. And it would require that the property tax rate be maintained at its current $5.90 per $100 of assessed value -- wiping out the nickel cut the council approved last week.

The mayor said he vetoed the budget bill because it was fiscally unsound, and it did not provide money for more police.

The mayor's veto of the budget bill will be at the top of the agenda when the council meets in a session on Monday. The council will consider the new budget if there are enough votes to sustain the mayor's veto. Meanwhile, key council members say there is virtually no chance that 15 votes can be mustered to override the veto. The council has 19 members.

The mayor and the council president both sit on the Board of Estimates, the five-member body that oversees the city's finances.

Yesterday, Mr. Schmoke and Ms. Clarke clashed over a procedural matter. She insisted that the City Charter requires the board to hold a hearing on the budget before sending it to the council.

But Mr. Schmoke was equally adamant that a public hearing was unnecessary.

The mayor argued that the new budget bill was virtually identical to his earlier bill, which won Board of Estimates approval before it went to the council last month.

"Although I am glad you submitted money for police, there has to be a hearing to focus on how this is being done. I would ask a public hearing to have a legally sufficient budget bill," Ms. Clarke said.

"All processes of the charter have been met," Mr. Schmoke maintained.

Ms. Clarke was the only board member who voted against Mr. Schmoke's new budget bill yesterday.

Ms. Clarke and Mr. Schmoke also clashed when the mayor mentioned his new bill at the "mini-meeting" of board members and city finance officials that precedes the board's regular public meeting.

During that session, Ms. Clarke invited Mr. Schmoke to "pull back your veto," saying there's "no reason for us to jump through 20 million hoops" and promising the council would muster enough votes to reconsider the budget bill the mayor vetoed.

"I'm not going to pull back on the veto. I think what we're doing is the right thing -- the neatest, cleanest and legally defensible," the mayor retorted.

Mr. Schmoke and Ms. Clarke also clashed when the mayor vetoed the budget bill Monday night.

Otho M. Thompson, deputy city solicitor, supported Mr. Schmoke's position that the charter didn't require a public hearing.

Meanwhile yesterday, yet another council member publicly lined up behind the mayor. Councilman Martin E. "Mike" Curran, D-3rd, said he now supports the mayor, echoing others in saying budget cuts were approved so quickly last week that council members didn't really understand their impact.

Earlier this week, at least two other council members publicly defected to the Schmoke camp by backing away from the cut in the property tax rate.

Councilwoman Sheila Dixon, D-4th, who has supported Mr. Schmoke on the budget, said, "It's going to be close, but I think the mayor has the votes."

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