$2 million added to '92 city budget Board raises aid to library, zoo, day care.


The Board of Estimates has added $2 million to the 1992 budget to cover the operating costs for the Enoch Pratt Library, the Baltimore Zoo and four day-care programs.

The board was expected today to approve the operating and capital budgets, which total more than $2 billion. The budget holds the line on city services, avoids layoffs and would maintain the current property tax rate of $5.95 for each $100 of assessed value.

Faced with shortfalls in state aid for various programs, the board added $2 million to the city's $1.8 billion operating budget. It did not make changes to the $266.4 million capital budget.

The board restored $1.4 million that had been slashed from the Urban Services Agency. The agency needed the money to continue operating four day-care programs. The money had been dropped from the budget city officials presented to the board last month. The city had hoped to turn over the program to private operators, but the plans did not progress fast enough to complete the turnover by July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.

"We'll keep operating the day-care centers for one more fiscal year and that meant putting the costs back into the budget," said city budget chief Edward J. Gallagher.

Other changes came after the board held budget hearings with several city departments. They include:

* Adding $400,000 to the Enoch Pratt Free Library budget. Some branches were threatened with closing because of a decline in state aid, Gallagher said. The extra funds came from an increase in general fund revenue created by increases in fees paid to the Sheriff's Department.

* The restoration of $150,000 in local funding to the Baltimore Zoo. The money was needed to cover a shortfall in state aid, Gallagher said.

* Putting another $250,000 into the Department of Recreation and Parks to maintain the city's parks and open space. Again, state aid to this item -- money that comes from state real estate transfer taxes -- was lower than previously expected because of a slowdown in housing sales.

After approval by the board, the budget moves to the City Council for final approval in June. Council members are looking at several ways to reduce the tax rate by 5 cents through cuts and enacting new revenue measures such as a solid-waste-removal fee placed on commercial businesses, and a wholesale distributor tax on items such as refrigerators and batteries for motor vehicles.

The council has the power only to make cuts from the budget approved by the board.

Two years ago, council members embarked on a three-year plan to reduce 15 cents from the property-tax rate, which was then $6 per $100 of assessed valuation.

A nickel was shaved off the rate for fiscal 1990, but last year the mayor asked the council not to make another five-cent reduction. In return, Schmoke said he would try to find a way to reduce the rate by 10 cents this year.

Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi, D-6th, chair of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, has scheduled hearings on the budget beginning on June 4.

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