The Baltimore City Council has given preliminary approval to a $2.05 billion fiscal 1992 budget would reduce the city's tax rate by 5 cents while providing modest increases in police and housing inspection manpower.
The tax reduction and the addition of 50 patrolmen and 18 housing inspectors to the city work force are possible because the council approved two companion bills last night that would generate revenue to pay for the staff increases.
"It has taken a total team effort to get to this point," said Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi, D-6th, chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee.
DiBlasi led negotiations with Mayor Kurt Schmoke's budget chief that ended in a compromise acceptable to the council and the mayor's office.
In a tight budget year, the city was able to reduce the tax rate, keep municipal layoffs to a minimum and add crime fighters and code enforcers to the payroll.
"The mayor's thing was to keep the budget balanced and then come up with money for improvements in service and possible tax relief," said Peter N. Marudas, Schmoke's liaison to the council. "And that is what happened."
The budget deal hinged on Schmoke agreeing to allow a $2.3 million surplus in the Employees' Retirement System to be used to help balance the spending plan. That agreement was nailed down yesterday.
To generate money for the budget moves, the council passed a bill that would allow the city to lower its contribution to the pension system by $1.6 million.
The council also added a $7.50 surcharge to disposal fees paid by trash haulers at city landfills and incinerators. That measure would generate about $2.7 million.
The reduction in the property tax rate to $5.90 per $100 of assessed valuation, scheduled for final approval Monday, would have a small impact on the average property owner's tax bill.
OC For example, the owner of a home with a market value of $56,000
would have a city tax bill of $1,322 -- about $11 less than it would be at the current rate. And at $5.90, the city's property tax rate is still, by far, the highest in Maryland.
"People may say that a nickel is not much, but we are moving in theright direction," DiBlasi said.
In giving preliminary approval to the budget last night, the council also approved an amendment that would put $1.6 million earmarked for the school system's administration into limbo. The council voted to cut the money from the budget, but restore it through a supplemental appropriation if school officials come before them and justify the expenditure.
I= The amendment passed, although Councilwoman Jacqueline F.
McLean, D-2nd, attempted to dismiss the effort as "smoke and mirrors budgeting."
"You just can't throw out an amendment like this without knowing what the impact is going to be," McLean said, to no avail.