Councilwoman Helen Holton, who represents west and southwest Baltimore, said she wanted to see employees' pension benefits also increase. She said the workers affected by the changes are some of the city's poorest.

"I don't think it's a good budget," Holton said. "We're a tale of two cities. What it means to become a Baltimore City resident is to take on a lot of fees and taxes."

Union leader Glenard S. Middleton Sr. said he hopes the council in the future will increase pension benefits for municipal workers, including laborers in the public works and transportation departments.

"This is the right thing to do for the lowest-paid employees in the city of Baltimore," Middleton said. "They live paycheck to paycheck. They want to be treated with respect."

The budget represented Rawlings-Blake's first opportunity to implement steps of a 10-year financial plan she says is needed to fix a $750 million structural deficit that the city is facing over the next decade. She says the city will need additional "bold reforms" to fix the looming financial shortfall, including charging residents for trash collection, asking firefighters to work longer hours and cutting the city workforce by 10 percent over time.

In return, she said, the city can use the savings to raise employee salaries and cut property taxes by 22 percent — 50 cents per $100 of assessed value — over the next decade.

For the coming fiscal year, the city is cutting the rate by 2 cents per $100 of assessed value, with owner-occupied homes eligible for bigger breaks.

"I strongly believe that history will recount the work of this council as setting Baltimore on a path for growth, furthering the renaissance we have been experiencing," Rawlings-Blake said.

City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young praised the budget as "responsible" but said he planned to fight the 15 percent water and wastewater bill increased slated for Board of Estimates approval later this month.

"I think what they're asking for is a little exorbitant," Young said.

But Councilman William H. Cole IV said he believes the budget is relatively painless.

"This is my first year on the council where we haven't had to do any massive cuts," he said. "To me that was a great improvement. I think it's part of budgeting in the future instead of budgeting a year at a time."

luke.broadwater@baltsun.com

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