City counters criticism on size of its staff Health Department, union of fire officers say study's comparisons were flawed

May 06, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

City administrators and union officials spent yesterday countering criticism that the city has too many workers.

Officials from the city Health Department and fire officers union didn't quarrel with the figures in the report issued Monday by Calvert Institute of Policy Research Inc., but said that the study fails to take the city's special needs into account.

The study compared the number of Baltimore government workers with six other industrial cities. It found that Baltimore had 5,500 more workers than the other six cities studied -- Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., and St. Louis.

The report concluded that the excess workers cost city taxpayers $224 million annually.

City Health Commissioner Dr. Peter Beilenson, however, noted that most of the funding for his operations comes from the state and federal government. About 10 percent of the city general fund goes to health services, Beilenson said.

"We're one of the lowest of any of those cities because most of our budget is foundation, state and federal grants," Beilenson said. "Those are all federal dollars we go after."

Beilenson also noted that staffing levels in the Health Department have helped the city reduce HIV rates, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, infant mortality and teen pregnancy.

"The dollars that we have gone after -- the federal dollars -- have gone into [these programs]," Beilenson said.

Although the Calvert report did not mention grants to the Health Department in particular, it did caution the city on relying on federal and state grants.

"Baltimore's ability to generate outside sources of revenue, particularly from the state and federal governments, may enable it to get away with its padded payroll for awhile," Calvert Institute President Douglas P. Munro said in the report. "However, outside funding should not be counted upon forever."

Leaders of the city's fire officers union also objected to the report. The study noted that because residents have been moving out of Baltimore at a rate of 1,000 per month, city Fire Department staffing should drop at an equal rate.

Stephan G. Fugate, president of Baltimore Fire Officers Association Local 964, said that although people have moved, buildings in the city have remained. Firefighters must maintain the buildings, vacant or not, Fugate said.

"He's a policy wonk who is not really attuned to the particulars of Baltimore," Fugate said of Munro.

Other departments, such as public works, complained that the study didn't identify the functions of comparable city departments. For example, Baltimore's public works agency handles 10 functions ranging from transportation to parking.

Munro said his group tried to be as accurate as possible by studying specific municipal functions and not overall departments. For example, the study excluded Baltimore's water and wastewater functions from its public works statistics because most city public works departments do not include such services, he said.

It also grouped planning and housing together because other cities group them together, he said.

Pub Date: 5/06/98

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