Md. gets funding wish list from city

In letters, deputy mayor requests state support for drug treatment, AIDS

October 09, 2003|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

The city of Baltimore has given state officials a wish list for the next budget year, one that seeks millions of additional state dollars for drug treatment, AIDS prevention, youth mentoring, education and other programs.

Detailed in a series of letters from Deputy Mayor Jeanne Hitchcock to state department leaders, the budget requests for fiscal 2005 are preliminary and subject to change, Hitchcock said.

But they give an indication of Mayor Martin O'Malley's priorities, which Hitchcock said have not changed.

"They represent a very focused consistent strategy for Baltimore City," Hitchcock said. "And they are consistent with the nature of our partnership with the state over the last four years of this administration. They focus on drug treatment, public safety, economic development, lead paint eradication.

"We're hoping that in these tight fiscal times [the state] can still partner with us around some very important initiatives so we can keep the momentum going."

Shareese N. DeLeaver, a spokeswoman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said, "It's too early to tell" how the governor will receive the spending requests.

Given the poor economy and the state's tight budget, the city should not expect to see any increases in funding, except in education, said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

"I don't think we're in a position yet to talk about any increases in funding until the revenues are much more vibrant or vital for the state," he said. "While we might need things, given the importance of educational funding and the importance of maintaining programs that we currently have in place, it's going to be difficult having discussions about more funds."

Rawlings was more optimistic that the state would - as Hitchcock urges in one of her letters - fully fund a school spending plan passed by the General Assembly last year and named after the Thornton Commission.

State Budget Secretary James C. "Chip" DiPaula Jr. has said the governor's next spending plan, to be submitted in January, would include an additional $365 million for schools as called for under the Thornton plan.

"I think the major issue before the General Assembly that's a priority for many legislators that represent the city is the full funding of Thornton," Rawlings said. "That's important to the future quality of the Baltimore City public school system."

Among the requests submitted by Hitchcock:

$15 million a year for the next five years for the planned East Baltimore biotechnology park, and $9 million in 2005 for other city revitalization projects.

$30 million over three years for drug treatment, which would serve 36,000 residents a year.

$10.5 million over three years for lead paint abatement.

$4.5 million for a new fireboat plus an extra $900,000 to help offset operational costs of the Fire Department's marine fleet.

$5 million over three years for HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

$1.1 million for Baltimore Rising, a faith-based youth mentoring program.

$800,000 for educational and training programs for former inmates, 9,000 of whom return to the city each year. The money would serve 100 ex-offenders over 18 to 24 months.

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