Schmoke appeals for tax increase Mayor vows he won't restore $4.6 million to budget otherwise

City Council meets tonight

Board weighing alternative reductions in spending plan

June 06, 1996|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

As the Baltimore City Council prepares to take up the new budget tonight, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is making a last-ditch appeal to the council to pass some sort of tax increase.

Schmoke, through his finance director, has reaffirmed to council members that he will not restore $4.6 million in budget cuts unless the council approves a way to generate more revenue. The council wants the mayor to add the money to the budget. The council is permitted to cut the budget, but not to increase it.

In addition, in a hand-delivered letter to council members late Tuesday, finance director William R. Brown Jr. said the mayor also has "grave concerns" about some cuts the council is proposing to close a separate $4.9 million budget gap.

But Brown said in an interview that he didn't know whether Schmoke, who is in Turkey attending a United Nations conference on cities, would veto the budget because of the cuts.

On Monday, the council overwhelmingly rejected several tax proposals, including separate Schmoke administration measures that would have raised the city's income tax rate and closed an exemption from local energy taxes enjoyed by nonprofit organizations.

Three other measures remain in committee -- one by Schmoke to increase parking fines and alternatives suggested by council members to increase fees on vending machines and to put a tax on professional sports tickets. The chairman of the Taxation and Finance Committee, 3rd District Councilman Martin O'Malley, has said he wanted to study the bills over the summer.

Council President Lawrence A. Bell III was circumspect yesterday about whether any of the three measures might be brought up for a vote tonight, saying only that they have been "left on the table."

Bell also said council members would be looking for alternatives to the $4.6 million in cuts proposed by the administration, including a $3 million cut Schmoke proposed for the Department of Recreation and Parks.

"There will be some other proposals for cuts," he said.

A coalition of community groups plans a noon rally in front of City Hall to protest the proposed recreation and parks cuts.

In a related matter, the city has sent notices to some agency heads and union leaders about the possibility of layoffs, in accordance with labor agreements requiring 30 days' notice.

This year's budget calls for a reduction of 671 positions, though it is unclear how much of the reduction will come from an early retirement plan designed to trim hundreds of employees from the city's work force by January.

Union leaders are preparing for the worst.

"We expect there will be some layoffs," said Chester Wilton, head of the City Union of Baltimore.

Pub Date: 6/06/96

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