City residents protest cuts to proposed parks budget

Plan would eliminate 11 workers, day care

April 05, 2002|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A handful of city residents objected last night to projected cuts in the city's Department of Recreation and Parks budget that would eliminate some workers and a day care program.

At a public hearing before the Board of Estimates, the five-member body that controls city expenditures, residents expressed concern that cutting the parks department budget would hurt the city's beautification efforts.

The city is proposing eliminating the jobs of 11 workers who landscape medians and parks as well as serve community gardens, to save $444,300.

"Parks should not be seen as frills every time there is a problem with the budget," said Jane Baldwin, 58, a Mount Washington resident and president of the Cylburn Arboretum Association. "Baltimore life is not just about the Inner Harbor."

The hearing was held as part of the annual budget process. Mayor Martin O'Malley has proposed a preliminary $2.1 billion budget plan for next fiscal year, which begins July 1. The budget is not as contentious as last year's, when dozens of workers were laid off, but the cuts trim some favored city services.

The parks workers each year deliver wood chips and mulch to community gardeners, as well as help plant city properties.

Slashing their jobs "goes completely against the concept of healthy neighborhoods and neighborhood revitalization," said Amanda Cunningham, 43, of Northeast Baltimore.

Another sensitive issue is the proposed elimination of a day care program run by the parks department. The School Age Child Care Program serves about 110 children but is floundering because of low attendance rates. Cuts would save the city $690,000.

Lashawn Tibbs, 30, of Northeast Baltimore said the program benefits her 8-year-old child.

"It may be small but it is [good] for the children to help them learn more and be safe while their parents are at work," Tibbs told the board.

Edward J. Gallagher, acting budget director, said that the tight budget year in Annapolis means that the city would have to scale back some services. He reiterated that the budget is in the preliminary stages and nothing is final.

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