The Baltimore City government has introduced its proposed budget for fiscal year 2022, its first under the leadership of Mayor Brandon Scott, who took office in December.
Scott seeks to navigate the city’s finances through a second year of pandemic-addled revenues. It accounts for expected “historic lows” in money from parking, hotel taxes and the Baltimore Convention Center.
The council will hold a week of hearings on the budget next month, starting June 1 and continuing through June 7. The hearings will run daily, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., with two half-hour breaks each day for lunch and dinner.
The schedule has the city’s finance and health departments’ budgets up for review the first day, followed by the housing, transportation and planning departments’ on the second day, the public works department’s on the third day, the schools system’s and recreation and parks department’s on the fourth day, and fire, the office of the state’s attorney and police departments’ on the fifth day.
The City Council will also review the budgets of the offices of the inspector general, Visit Baltimore and the Board of Liquor License Commissioners, among several other offices and agencies, according to a memo addressed to agency and department heads from Councilman Eric T. Costello, who chairs the city’s ways and means committee.
At odds with several city advocates and organizers — as well as previous statements made by the mayor — the spending plan most controversially calls for an increase in the budget for the police department to $555 million.
That idea was panned by dozens of city residents during the city’s annual Taxpayers’ Night. City budget officials have said the increase does not fund new programs and is instead needed to pay for employee health insurance and higher obligations for police pensions.
Scott has defended his plan, arguing it presents a “continuity of services” as the city continues to navigate the coronavirus pandemic. He warned last month that the budget does not “reflect the direction I want to and we will move in the future.”
All hearings are open to the public to attend virtually and can be streamed online. Testimony will only be taken at Baltimore City Council Taxpayer’s Night on May 27.