City celebrates surprise surplus

$16 million extra in taxes, recordation fees will benefit children, food bank, museum

September 12, 2006|By John Fritze | John Fritze,sun reporter

Call it found money or just beating expectations: Baltimore officials are in the enviable position of having nearly $16 million more in the bank than they had anticipated weeks ago.

Yesterday, City Council members on the Budget and Appropriations Committee began distributing the surplus money, which is expected to be spent on children's programs, a handful of social initiatives, such as the Maryland Food Bank, and new elevators for city buildings, including City Hall.

The $15.8 million in extra money from last year's $2.4 billion budget is in addition to a $61 million surplus already reported, much of which was put toward school building rehabilitation and community programs. Neither figure includes $11.9 million paid to agencies that overspent their budget - including the city Police Department.

City officials say the extra money was the result of stronger-than-expected recordation receipts - collected when private property is sold - and income tax revenue, both of which have helped boost Baltimore's municipal budget from one that consistently needed cuts to avoid deficits to one that has easily been in the black for two years running. A major bond rating firm, Standard & Poor's, upgraded the city's financial outlook in June in part because of the surplus.

"Not to say there aren't problems, but to be where we are today is really the icing on a very lovely cake," said Council Vice President Stephanie C. Rawlings Blake, who chairs the budget committee.

The city anticipates directing about $5.6 million of the surplus to children's programs, including the city school system, and Healthy Start, which provides family support to pregnant women and young children. The Maryland Food Bank is expected to receive $250,000, and the Jewish Museum of Maryland will receive $440,000, city officials said.

About $3 million will be spent on elevator replacements for City Hall, the Abel Wolman Building and other city properties. All of the spending must still be approved by the full council.

Shanna Yetman, spokeswoman for the food bank, said the money will pay for new warehouse equipment and a truck that will let the group deliver more produce to impoverished neighborhoods.

"This partnership with the city will ensure that the Maryland Food Bank continues to serve the most vulnerable in our community," she said.

The budget committee delayed a vote yesterday on a $2 million appropriation to cover a shortfall expected as part of a revenue-sharing arrangement the city has with the downtown Hyatt. The city receives, and budgets for, a portion of the hotel's revenue, but officials believe that revenue will slip this year because of expected renovations.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.