Pugh says snow won't affect plan to contribute more to Baltimore schools

Tuesday's snow won't change Mayor Pugh's plan to divert snow removal money to schools.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh on Wednesday said that Tuesday's snowfall won't significantly affect her plan to contribute more money to the city school system to help close its $130 million budget gap.

Last week, Pugh and General Assembly leaders announced a plan to help close the gap that relies in part on the mayor redirecting money for snow removal. Pugh said this week's snow, which came at the end of a mild winter, wasn't large enough to change those plans.

"We're nowhere near the monies we've set aside," Pugh said, referring to the city's $6.3 million budget for snow removal. "We just can't afford two or three more of these. ... I certainly didn't want it to snow after the situation with the school system."

Even so, Pugh said she believed city workers "did a really great job" removing snow and ice during the storm. She praised the 300 young people recruited by the city to help shovel sidewalks.

"I got a lot of texts and emails and tweets saying we did a good job yesterday," she said. "That's what the citizens of Baltimore expect."

Meanwhile, operations were gradually returning to normal at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Wednesday following widespread cancellations Tuesday, spokesman Jonathan Dean said. Roughly 1,600 flights were canceled, and 4,600 were delayed Wednesday, down from 7,000 cancellations and more than 4,800 delays Tuesday, according to FlightAware.com.

Passengers were encouraged to check with their airline for updated information.

BGE reported 830 power outages across the region as of late Wednesday afternoon, more than 90 percent of them in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore. Roughly 20,000 customers in the area lost power during the storm.

Blustery winds were expected to continue Thursday, but mostly sunny conditions were expected to bring temperatures up to a high of nearly 40 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Friday should also be sunny, and it could reach 44 degrees before a drop with some rain or snow possible in the evening.

"It's still questionable whether it's going to be anything significant or not," meteorologist Ray Martin said. "It might be rain. Probably not much."

If Tuesday's snow is the last of the season, Baltimore can continue to save snow removal money and redirect it toward city schools.

Pugh and state lawmakers outlined a proposal Friday for the city and the state to provide $180 million to the school system over three years — a move that would cover about half of the school system's projected deficit over those years. School officials have warned of widespread layoffs if the gap isn't closed.

About half the proposed $180 million would come from city sources, including the rainy day fund and leftover snow removal money. In Baltimore, transportation officials say they have spent about $3.6 million of the city's $6.3 million snow budget during what's been a mild winter.

With the move to help the schools, Pugh said the city is stretching itself financially.

"It puts us in a risky position because we had to go into our rainy day fund," she said.

Pugh spokesman Anthony McCarthy said city officials expect new Baltimore schools CEO Sonja Santelises to rein-in costs.

"The CEO gets paid an extraordinary salary," he said. "The mayor has no desire to micromanage the public school system. The mayor knows we have a qualified, talented CEO sitting in that seat.

"She wants her to be able to do her job and have the resources to do her job. But there is a level of accountability we haven't seen in the last several years that we will have to see and certainly the governor will have to see."

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