Already forced to go without raises this year because of Baltimore's fiscal crisis, city employees have received more bad news from Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke: They will lose a week's pay.
No good news is in sight, either. After announcing yesterday that the city's 26,000 employees will not be paid for the next five holidays, Schmoke said that they probably won't get pay raises next year, either.
"I wish I could say there was some light at the end of this tunnel of fiscal hard times," Schmoke said. "But I don't see it."
Schmoke had hoped that the General Assembly would provide some fiscal relief. But, Schmoke said, "it does not appear that we are going to get the money from state government. So we have to spread the pain."
As a result, Schmoke backed away from his plan to close schools for a week, instead opting not to pay all city employees for five holidays for which they normally are paid.
"We're talking about the mayor, all elected officials, everybody who is employed in city government," Schmoke said. The only employees exempted are those who already face furloughs, including library workers and employees in the state's attorney's office, Schmoke said.
In addition to cutting the pay of city employees, Schmoke said, he is using a $2 million reserve fund, another $2 million saved by postponing a city bond sale, rent payments by the Orioles, and the proceeds expected from the sale of about $1 million in city-owned property to keep the current budget balanced.
Schmoke said he steered clear of making additional layoffs in the city work force, because "it is terrible out there. Nobody can get work."
The budget plan announced yesterday completes the city's response to two cuts in state aid to the city that totaled $40.8 million since November.
While that budget gap is closed for now, it is likely to widen again next spring, when another cut in state aid to the city is expected.
And, Schmoke added, the budget picture is not likely to clear before the next fiscal year begins in July. As a result, city employees may have to take another financial hit.
"The prospect for salary increases in fiscal 1993 are pretty dim," Schmoke said.
Already, the mayor has asked to postpone contract negotiations with city employee unions until after the current General Assembly session ends in April.
"I understand that the mayor's back is against the wall," said Cheryl D. Glenn, president of the 5,300-member City Union of Baltimore. "But I am distressed that our employees have to take yet another hit. But I prefer to see furloughs than layoffs."
Besides holding back raises, Schmoke is in the midst of planning radical changes in city government that would be implemented in July. The plan could eliminate entire agencies, and merge others, Schmoke has said. It could also further reduce the city work force -- through attrition, Schmoke says. The city government already has lost more than 3,000 jobs since 1988.
Schmoke said the plan will have to go into effect if the General Assembly does not provide substantial new help to the city for the fiscal year beginning in July.
"I am encouraged by what the governor said," Schmoke said. "But I am not encouraged by what I hear in the legislature. I don't know what it is down there, but we've got to turn that around."
Schmoke said he is hoping that the legislative session brings a major increase in state aid to education, a special "disparity grant" to help cash-starved Baltimore, and state money to fill vacancies on the city police force.
But, thus far, the mayor has heard less support for his proposals than criticism of city government from state legislators. Some legislators had suggested, for instance, that any new state aid to education come with the restriction that the money can not be spent on teacher pay raises. Schmoke said he thinks that idea is ridiculous.