Council could hold up city funding

Some members threaten to delay appropriations if demands aren't met

May 16, 2002|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Some Baltimore City Council members are threatening to hold up millions of city dollars in an attempt to save a day care program and find new city jobs for custodians whose positions would be eliminated in the proposed fiscal 2003 budget.

Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., a Southeast Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the council's budget committee, urged members at a committee meeting this week to reject the administration's requests for making "supplemental appropriations" if their demands are not met.

The appropriations are allocations of revenue that has come in above projections in the annual budget. The Board of Estimates and City Council must approve the allocations. The amounts have ranged from $16 million to $21 million in the past eight years, D'Adamo said.

"We'll hold it up until we get what we're asking for," he said.

The threat had an effect on the Board of Estimates yesterday, when the board delayed approval of about $500,000 in custodial contracts for the Department of Recreation and Parks. The board will reconsider the bids next week.

City Council President Sheila Dixon said she hopes the city can find the workers "adequate or better jobs" before next week's vote and that the day care program will be saved. She said she does not expect the custodial jobs to be restored to the budget.

The proposed budget eliminates 61 jobs in the department, about 40 belonging to custodians who would be replaced by private contractors. The city expects to save about $530,000 a year by privatizing custodial services, D'Adamo said.

The $2.1 billion spending plan, which covers the fiscal year that begins July 1, also cuts the recreation department's School Age Child Care Program. The program serves about 115 children and costs $480,000 a year.

The city's share is supposed to be $130,000 a year, with tuition making up the balance. But the city ends up paying much more than that because attendance has been poor and parents haven't paid, city budget officials said.

A union leader representing the custodians was not optimistic that their jobs would be restored.

"They always find money for [supplemental appropriations], but when it comes down to real-life people, they can't find the money," said Glenard S. Middleton Sr., president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Victor Farmer of East Baltimore, a full-time custodian for the past seven years, said he would like to stay in his current position but would be satisfied with another city job.

"All I ever wanted was to work for the city," said Farmer, 49.

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