Unhappy with the state of negotiations over some extra money for children in the city's budget, members of the Baltimore City Council hit upon a ripe scheme Thursday: Vote to take away all funding for the mayor's budgeting office.
The vote came immediately after Andrew Kleine, the mayor's budget director, presented the proposed budget for the office — his own — to the council's Budget and Appropriations Committee and touted a few of its recent achievements.
Eric T. Costello, chairman the committee, told Kleine he was "extremely frustrated" with this year's negotiating process. Councilman Leon F. Pinkett, the vice chairman, let Kleine know he was "deeply disappointed."
The committee then proceeded to strip from the budget bill $2 million for the Bureau of the Budget and Management Research and $770,000 for the innovation fund. The vote was unanimous.
"I'm disappointed in the level of cooperation we've gotten from his office," Costello said in an interview after the vote. "The BBMR office has treated the council's priorities as if they are a joke."
Council leaders want to find $13 million to provide extra funding for schools and after-school programs. They have suggested using money left over from this year's budget — an idea Costello said the mayor's team has rejected — and have said they'll explore cutting the police department's funding.
Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said spending more on children and teenagers would help fight crime.
"We have to be proactive and get kids into positive programs," he said. "This is very important to this council."
The city would struggle to function without a budgeting office and it is unlikely that the cut will remain in the final version of the budget. Kleine declined to comment.
Young said he still wanted to get a deal done with Mayor Catherine Pugh but that the council needed to make a point.
"We haven't closed the door we just thought we need to cut their budget to show that we're not playing," he said.
Anthony McCarthy, Pugh's spokesman, said the mayor considered the council's tactic "very interesting."
"She has met with the council president on several occasions and agreed to considerable concessions," he said.
It's the second year in a row that feuding between council leadership and the mayor's office over programs for children has spilled into public view. Last year, Young threatened to shut down the city's government and then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake eventually gave in.
The council's budgetary powers are limited. The body can make cuts from the mayor's proposal — not add to it — and cannot use cut funds for other purposes.
The city's leading business group warned the council this week not to take money from the police department in the midst of spike crime. Young said Thursday that cuts to the police department remained a possibility, but that they would not touch the patrol division.
Costello declined to discuss the specifics of the negotiations, but said they had reached an "impasse."