Baltimore's budget and property-tax rate
Add another voice to the running conversation about Baltimore property taxes, and how the city's difficult budget could affect them: Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's spokesman. Ryan O'Doherty wanted to share two pieces of information with you all.
First, the scope of the dilemma: The finance department says the city is facing a $127 million budget deficit next fiscal year. To put that into perspective, O'Doherty said, that's the cost of employing half the police force or all the fire fighters.
But he said Mayor-to-be Rawlings-Blake was serious when she said that raising the property-tax rate "would be the last resort." The first resort -- before anyone starts talking about tax increases, property or otherwise -- are cuts:
"We've got to show people that the city is serious about making reductions in areas that are not essential before we start having conversations about revenue," O'Doherty said. "I think city residents deserve that -- before we go to their pocketbook, we take a serious look at what we’re spending money on."
Any cuts come on top of what the city already reduced to deal with the effects of tax collections hammered by the bad economy and depressed home sales. As Julie Scharper reported:
The city has eliminated more than 500 jobs, including laying off more than two dozen employees, reduced trash pickups and implemented rotating closings of fire stations to tighten the budget for the current fiscal year. A hiring freeze has been in place since November 2007 and many capital projects have been put on hold. Government offices are set to close for five mandatory furlough days. Most of the unions that represent city employees have agreed to cuts, but the Fraternal Order of Police is engaged in arbitration with the city over reductions.
Food for thought -- and discussion.