"The growth of these costs is relentless," he said.

Under her proposal, the city would start requiring civilian employees to contribute 5 percent of their salaries to their pensions, Rawlings-Blake said. The city would phase in the contribution increases, starting at 1 percent in the coming fiscal year. New employees would be given 401(k)-style plans instead of traditional pensions. The changes to city pensions would save $5 million in the coming fiscal year, Kleine said.

The budget also includes a new shift schedule for firefighters, requiring department employees to work longer hours. The city expects about 300 fire department positions to be cut through attrition as a result of each employee working for 24 hours straight and then taking 48 hours off.

Rick Hoffman, president of the firefighters union, released a statement opposing the mayor's plan.

"As a union leader I cannot support a plan that eliminates jobs," Hoffman said in an email. "An overwhelming amount of our membership — nearly 90 percent — voted to turn down the City's best offer and now we will either continue talks with the City or proceed with the arbitration process."

Kleine said the budget does not include any reductions from automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration. Such cuts could be devastating to Baltimore, Kleine said.

"There is no wiggle room," he said. "That's the sad fact. If we receive cuts in our federal grants, services will be lost."

Even if there's a fight over the details, council members said they understood the importance of curbing Baltimore's projected deficits.

"If we don't do anything about our structural deficit, we could end up like Detroit and other places," Young said. "I don't think anybody wants to see that."

Reisinger emphasized the need for the council to act quickly with the mayor's legislation.

"It's a must," he said. "We've got to make time for it."

Kleine presented the budget to the city's Board of Estimates Wednesday morning. Also that day, City Auditor Robert L. McCarty told the board the city had to spend more than $1 million to rework audit reports that contained erroneous information. Comptroller Joan M. Pratt said the city could have saved money if the Finance Department had listened earlier to city auditors' concerns about inaccurate books.