City workers, residents speak against budget cuts

Concerns about layoffs and declines in services

April 02, 2004|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

A handful of municipal workers and residents turned out yesterday for Baltimore's annual "taxpayers' night," and all expressed concerns about a proposed $2.1 billion city budget that calls for reducing trash collection, eliminating recycling and cutting more than 500 jobs, including police officers and firefighters.

About a dozen people attended the session held by the five-member Board of Estimates in the War Memorial Building. Among those speaking was Quentin McCready, a single parent who, at age 47, said he dreaded having to look for another job. He has been a Public Works laborer for 11 years.

"I'm not what you call a high school graduate, but the labor jobs I do, I really love it," said McCready, adding that he didn't know much about deficits and budgets. "But I understand layoffs. I understand that."

Mayor Martin O'Malley said he hoped the city could avoid job cuts by raising taxes and fees -- moves he said are being forced by a sagging economy and declining funds from the state and federal governments.

"We will not for political expedience let this city's progress stall," O'Malley said.

The proposed spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 eliminates 533 city jobs and represents a decrease of 2.2 percent, or $44 million, from the current year's spending plan.

O'Malley plans to propose increased taxes and fees to avoid large-scale layoffs or reductions in services. He is considering an energy tax on nonprofit organizations and increasing fees related to, among other things, water use, parking, telephone service and property transfers.

Eva Glasgow, 45, a mother of three, called on the city to raise more revenue for children's programs. "We're at a point where we're not getting anywhere with what we have," she said.

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