City tax rate would not change in mayor's $1.9 billion budget; O'Malley seeks $47 million more in annual spending


Mayor Martin O'Malley formally introduced yesterday a $1.9 billion spending plan that maintains the city tax rate and proposes closing seven fire stations.

The budget would provide a $47.7 million increase in operations spending, the largest dollar rise since 1991, city Budget Director Edward J. Gallagher said.

O'Malley's budget will be taken up by the City Council.

The mayor said closing seven firehouses across the city would allow him to divert $4 million to $5 million to other programs, such as putting additional emergency medical units on the street and giving pay raises to firefighters and police officers.

The budget would keep the city's property tax rate at $5.82 for every $100 of assessed value.

Among the highlights of the spending plan, a preliminary version of which was unveiled last month, are:

A $765,000 increase to State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy's office to take over the job of charging police suspects.

The budget also includes $600,000 to staff a courtroom at the Central Booking and Intake Center that O'Malley hopes will help relieve crowded courts.

$500,000 to hire retired police officers to assist the department.

A $500,000 increase to the Department of Recreation and Parks for children's initiatives.

The city has also been promised $5 million in foundation and private sector funding, O'Malley said.

$700,000 to upgrade commercial corridors in the city under a state program known as Main Streets.

Despite the optimistic fiscal forecast this year, Gallagher warned that the city faces a $140 million revenue deficit over the next three years.

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