City has fired 51 workers after losing state funds


Faced with the loss of almost $2 million in state funds, the city last month quietly fired 51 employees, including 22 workers who weatherize homes for low-income Baltimore residents.

Officials in the city's Department of Housing and Community Development, which manages the programs under which the money was spent,said the city had little choice but to let the

employees go because the cuts involved state money.

"It was not that the housing commissioner said that to balance the budget we are going to lay off city workers," Bill Toohey, housing department spokesman, said. "That's not how this decision was made."

The state, which funneled $2.3 million in weatherization grant money to the city last year, passed along a cut in the amount of federal dollars it received by reducing the grant to $1.1 million this year, forcing the city to either fire 22 employees or to cover their salaries in the general fund.

Also, 18 workers who maintained sidewalks and curbs throughout the city were dismissed after the Maryland Department of Transportation decided not to renew a $432,563 contract under which the city workers were paid.

The state also eliminated a $215,000 contract with the Mass Transit Authority for subway grounds maintenance, leading to the dismissal of three city workers who cut grass around subway stops.

An additional eight clerical workers whose salaries were paid underthe contracts also were laid off, Mr. Toohey said.

Last year, city workers did energy-efficiency improvements on 1,550 homes, caulking windows, installing insulating jackets on water heaters and adding storm windows. Because of the work force reduction, however, the city is planning to work on only 694 homes this year.

In his campaign literature, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has claimed that the city has been able to reduce its payroll by almost 3,000 workers while having to lay off "very few" city employees.

Although the city never announced the layoffs, which came five days after Mr. Schmoke announced his candidacy for re-election, Mr. Toohey said that there was no effort to hide the firings.

He said there is usually no need to announce layoffs because union agreements prevent the city from announcing them before first consulting with union leaders, by which time word of the dismissals usually has reached the media via disgruntled workers.

"I fully assumed someone, somewhere would pick up the phone and call" the media, Mr. Toohey said.


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