Mayor to cut 500 jobs Up to 300 by attrition, including retirement

layoffs likely in 1999

Facing $24 million deficit

Action comes after institute's claim of 'padded payroll'

November 13, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday he will eliminate 500 city positions next year, a move that will likely include about 200 layoffs.

Facing a $24 million budget deficit, city finance leaders think they can reduce the city payroll by up to 300 workers through attrition, including retirement, Schmoke said. But the mayor added that the need to halt the increase of spending would likely result in as many as 200 employee pink slips for the city's 25,000 workers.

"We're trying to do this through attrition," Schmoke said. "We realize there is a possibility of some layoffs."

The administration will exclude cuts to police or fire protection, Schmoke said. He did not indicate where the layoffs might occur.

City spending is increasing twice as fast as tax revenues, resulting in a projected $24 million budget deficit by 2000.

Two weeks ago the mayor imposed a hiring freeze and has asked department directors to trim where they can.

"The general fiscal health of the city is sound," Schmoke said. "But if we continue to do business in the exact same way as in the past, we will have a problem."

The mayor's action comes six months after a Baltimore policy research group, the Calvert Institute, accused the city of having a "padded payroll." Baltimore has 5,500 more workers than six similar-sized U.S. cities, the institute said. The excess employees cost city taxpayers $224 million a year, according to the report.

City union officials could not be reached to comment yesterday on the announcement, and calls placed to their offices were not returned.

Since becoming mayor 11 years ago, Schmoke has cut the city work force by 3,355.

Schmoke's office has grown by 60 percent since he was elected. The mayor has 96 employees, up from 57 when he took office. Schmoke said he would reduce his staff by 20 percent next year.

City Council members have criticized the mayor's call for employee cutbacks, contending that the administration continues to spend.

The city added $1.4 million to this year's budget to create an Environmental Control Board to crack down on nuisance crimes such as trash dumping.

Schmoke countered the criticism yesterday, noting that the council voted for the board because a similar New York panel eventually made money from fines.

Baltimore has begun a systematic study of city programs to determine where spending can be reduced, Schmoke said.

Calvert Institute President Douglas P. Munro welcomed the mayor's announcement yesterday. But Munro said Baltimore has failed to take the necessary budgetary steps that comparable cities such as Indianapolis and Philadelphia have taken. Indianapolis privatized much of its city services while Philadelphia renegotiated contracts with its unions.

Baltimore explored those avenues, Schmoke said. But steps that helped others would not necessarily help Baltimore, he said.

Schmoke quoted Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell about the budget woes facing American cities. "Our city is dying," Rendell told Schmoke. "It's just dying more slowly."

Pub Date: 11/13/98

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