Schmoke promises cost-cutting plan, does not rule out chance of layoffs

February 01, 1996|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Eric Siegel, Marcia Myers and Mike Bowler contributed to this article.

With Baltimore facing its biggest deficit in his tenure, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke vowed yesterday to come up with comprehensive cost-cutting plan within three weeks and did not rule out the possibility of layoffs.

Mr. Schmoke has ordered a top-to-bottom review of all city agencies and plans to meet with leaders of the municipal labor unions to find ways to close a $32 million budget gap.

Beyond flatly rejecting a proposal to defer school employees' pay, Mr. Schmoke would not say what options are being considered to balance the $2.3 billion budget, as required by the city charter.

"I am absolutely confident that I will close the gap," Mr. Schmoke said yesterday at a news briefing. "I assure you that we have realistic options that don't require budget games or accounting games."

Mr. Schmoke insisted the city has "a number of other options" besides employee reductions.

But the mayor and budget officials have hinted at the likelihood of layoffs in virtually every city agency, and when pressed on whether he was ruling them out, Mr. Schmoke was circumspect.

"We're not going to discuss our options until we've got our final plan," he said.

Firefighters and police officers would be spared cuts, Mr. Schmoke said, although he is looking for ways to put off purchases of equipment and supplies.

But any layoffs would involve all other city agencies, not just the public schools, and union leaders are worried.

"It's a big concern," said Chester D. Wilton, president of the City Union of Baltimore, which represents 6,500 clerical and blue-collar workers in virtually every city agency.

Linda Prudente, a spokeswoman for the 8,500-member Baltimore Teachers Union, said, "I think it's incredible, they're thinking of layoffs and they're still hiring."

Both officials, whose unions represent more than half of the city's 26,400 employees, said they look forward to offering the mayor other money-saving measures, from early retirement programs to reducing work that is contracted out.

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