Baltimore City Council, mayor reach budget deal

Baltimore City Council leaders and Mayor Catherine Pugh reached a budget deal Wednesday to put more money into schools and programs for children.

The agreement comes after contentious negotiations that saw frustrated council members vote to cut some of the mayor's most cherished programs.

The deal shifts $7.58 million in spending for the coming year, with most of that going to Baltimore's public schools, an aide to City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said. The mayor's office refused to confirm details of the deal but confirmed an agreement had been reached.

"Sometimes you must step back in order to move the city forward," Pugh said in a statement. "Some of the council's requests were not possible and all of my priorities could not be done."

Funding for some programs Pugh championed — such as new solar-powered, compacting trash cans — will be trimmed to fund the package of measures sought by the City Council. Another $3.6 million will be drawn from a surplus in this year's budget. The deal avoids any cuts to the Police Department.

Young said he was delighted to see a deal done. He expects the council to take a final vote on the budget Monday.

"This is a budget that shows that our kids are our priority," Young said.

The deal restores $2.58 million in funding for after school programs and $1.5 million in funding to Safe Streets, an anti-violence program that uses former offenders to intervene with younger criminals. That had been a priority for the council, and Pugh had vowed to find money for it earlier Wednesday.

Council leaders had talked about seeking $13 million in extra spending for the coming year, about $10 million of which would go to schools. Instead, more funding for the city's schools will be spread across three years, an approach schools CEO Sonja Santelises told council members she preferred.

The budget negotiations had become bitter in the past week. The council can cut funding from the mayor's proposal, but cannot spend that money elsewhere. The council had aggressively moved to use their ability to cut — beginning with a vote to strip all funding from the office that crafts the city's budget, taken right in front of that office's director.

The council then voted 15-0 Monday to make even deeper cuts to Pugh's budget proposal. Council members said the preliminary vote to cut more than $26 million from Pugh's $2.8 billion plan was designed to pressure the mayor to compromise.

"I wouldn't say it was nasty; I'd say we wanted to send a message about getting our priorities," Young said. He blamed the mayor's budget office and its director, Andrew Kleine, for the acrimony.

Pugh said the process would be more collaborative next year.

"I can assure you the budget process next year will be very different," she said.

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