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Unrest will cost city $20 million, officials estimate

Unrest and rioting in Baltimore to cost city $20 million, officials project Tuesday.

The recent rioting and unrest in Baltimore will cost the city an estimated $20 million, officials said Tuesday.

The expenses — which go before the city's spending board for approval Wednesday — include overtime for police and firefighters, damage to city-owned property and repaying other jurisdictions for police and other assistance.

Henry J. Raymond, Baltimore's finance director, said the city can temporarily cover the costs from its rainy day fund while seeking reimbursement for up to 75 percent from Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"The city remains on strong financial footing," Raymond said. "Hopefully, with the FEMA reimbursement, it will reduce the financial stress that we're under. In terms of the city's overall revenue structure, we're on firm footing and we'll move forward."

Both Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake have requested federal aid.

Hogan has asked President Barack Obama to issue a disaster declaration so the city and state can be reimbursed for some expenses, officials said. Rawlings-Blake, meanwhile, encouraged city-based businesses to apply for aid from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Baltimore Development Corp.

The $20 million estimate released by city officials does not include the cost to businesses of the unrest. The figure also does not include state or federal costs. It's unclear when those figures will be tallied.

Raymond said the $20 million in direct costs is based on figures submitted by various city agencies. He did not provide a breakdown, but said the figure also includes the cost to purchase equipment, such as riot gear and tear gas canisters, and pay for public works crews to clean city streets.

He said the cost of the civil disturbance is expected to be larger when accounting for future lost taxes and economic impact.

A preliminary economic impact estimate included in Hogan's request for the disaster declaration put the cost at $30.5 million. That included the loss of conventions, hospitality and leisure spending, and tourism from Orioles games that were closed to the public or moved to Tampa Bay, Fla.

As for the more than 380 businesses damaged during the unrest, Rawlings-Blake said loans and grants are available to pay to fix the destruction. She joined Baltimore Development Corp. President Bill Cole at a news conference Tuesday in Highlandtown.

"Storefront recovery grants can be awarded as quickly as a day or two," Cole said. He did not have information about how many grants and loans the city has awarded thus far.

Cole said the BDC is offering grants of up to $5,000 and zero-interest loans of up to $35,000. He said those loans could be converted into grants.

Businesses may also be eligible for loans from the Small Business Administration, which has estimated business damages of at least $9 million. The city will assist those seeking federal funds, Cole said.

Raymond said the city will continue to monitor the impact on income taxes from lost wages when businesses were closed, as well as decreases in property tax collections from the destruction and other costs.

A final figure is expected within the next several weeks.

The Board of Estimates will be asked Wednesday to authorize finance officials to submit the expenses to the City Council for approval. Baltimore's rainy day fund will be replenished with money the city expects to recover from FEMA. The fund has a balance of $105 million, or 6.5 percent of the city's budget.

Raymond said the board also will be asked to approve an additional $6.5 million for snow removal and $16 million in police salaries and overtime costs unrelated to the unrest. Those costs will be absorbed by revenue surpluses, and also need authorization from the council.

The city spent $14 million treating and clearing streets of snow and ice during the winter. About half that money was not budgeted, finance officials said.

The additional police costs come from about $8 million in salaries from a new contract that took effect in January. Another $8 million comes from overtime costs that had been absorbed by vacant police positions that have been eliminated under the new contract, officials said.

The additional spending will bring the Police Department budget for this year to $433 million.

Baltimore Sun reporters Luke Broadwater and John Fritze contributed to this article.

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