Funding increase not enough, Jessamy complains

City Council panel holds first of 4 budget hearings

May 14, 2002|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy complained yesterday that the city is not giving her agency enough money to hold up its end of the crime-fighting bargain.

Testifying on the heels of police officials at a daylong budget hearing, Jessamy said the $397,000 increase her office gets in the proposed 2003 budget does not keep pace with the $14.7 million boost planned for police.

"We're not funded like the rest of law enforcement and public safety," she said. "The reality is, we need more money."

Her comments occurred during the first of four hearings before the City Council's Budget and Appropriations Committee on the proposed $2.1 billion budget, which covers the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Under the spending plan, the Police Department would receive $243 million from the city's general fund, an increase of 6.4 percent that reflects Mayor Martin O'Malley's continued emphasis on public safety.

Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young of the 2nd District called that level of police funding "absolutely sickening," saying it came at the expense of children's programs. He noted that the budget proposal eliminates a Recreation and Parks day care program that serves 115 children, which costs the city $480,000 a year.

City budget officials say that the program has been poorly attended and that city staff are working to find alternative day care for the children.

The increase in police spending will help pay for a 9 percent raise for city officers, a pay increase that the city agreed to as part of a three-year contract.

"I do look with an envious eye to the Police Department," Jessamy said. Under the proposed budget, Jessamy's office will receive $17.2 million from the city's general fund, an increase of 2.4 percent. Her office will receive more than $4 million more from federal and state grants -- money that Jessamy says she has been forced to seek because of inadequate city funding.

The state's attorney's budget has grown by a slightly larger percentage than the Police Department under O'Malley, administration officials note. The state's attorney's budget grew from $14.5 million in 2000 to $17.2 million in the proposed 2003 budget, an increase of 18.6 percent. The police budget rose from $205 million to $243 million over that period, an increase of 18.5 percent.

"You have to look at it in relative terms," Deputy Mayor Jeanne D. Hitchcock said. "In the last few years, when the budget of virtually every city agency has been cut or stayed the same, the state's attorney's office has enjoyed gradual increases."

The hearings continue today in the Curran Conference Room on the fourth floor of City Hall, with testimony on Recreation and Parks, the Fire Department, the Department of Education and Baltimore Development Corp. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. and conclude at 4:30 p.m.

Staff writer Sarah Koenig contributed to this article.

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