Young writes open letter, criticizing Rawlings-Blake over fire closures, budget plan

Baltimore City Council PresidentBernard C. "Jack" Youngon Thursday wrote an open letter to MayorStephanie Rawlings-Blake, criticizing her about a plan to close three fire companies, and prompting a response from Rawlings-Blake's budget chief, Andrew Kleine. The City Council is slated to vote Thursday to authorize more than $6 million in cuts to Rawlings-Blake's budget that Young says could be directed toward recreation schools, fire companies and afterschool programs. Below is Young's letter and Kleine's memo. -- Luke Broadwater 


Dear Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake,

As President of the Baltimore City Council I often have the pleasure of talking with residents and business owners from every corner of our great City.

Recently, I’ve been struck by the fact that these citizens – parents, teachers, shop owners and children – each desire a better Baltimore to live, work and play. 

They believe that Baltimore should be a city that invests in the healthy development of young people by providing recreational and educational activities. Baltimore, they believe, should be a city that values the life-long benefits associated with youth summer jobs. City government, these same people have told me, needs to stop the constant threat to close fire companies, a move that would ultimately endanger their homes and communities.

On Monday, June 18, my colleagues on the City Council and I took a first step toward properly investing in many of the same critical services that citizens have begged for since before 2009, when you, as Council President, championed increased funding for the very priorities the Council is fighting for today. By cutting $6.1 million from your proposed $2.8 billion fiscal year 2013 budget, the City Council sent a clear message that NOW is the time to:

•    Increase funding for programs and services that will grow the youth of Baltimore into a generation of successful adults.
•    Work to make sure that our neighborhoods are protected and safe by reversing planned closures of three city fire companies.

On Thursday, June 21, 2012, the City Council is set to hold one of its most important votes of the year. And hanging in the balance is funding to support the following critical priorities:

•    Keeping ALL city recreation centers open
•    Increasing the number of youth summer jobs
•    Increasing afterschool slots for our children to keep them productive during afterschool hours
•    Keeping ALL city fire companies open

Each of these priorities, Madam Mayor, should sound familiar.
In 2009 as City Council President, you found that then-Mayor Dixon’s proposed budget needed changes. So you requested more funding for rec centers and other programs for Baltimore’s youth.
“While the City Council fully understands the difficult fiscal circumstances that the city faces, we must also recognize the importance of protecting our priorities in public safety, public schools and services for our youth,” you said, according to a 2009 press release issued by your office. Mayor Dixon “has done a good job crafting the proposed budget, but I believe that we can do better for our children and protect these critically important services,” your press release continued.

What a difference a few years makes.
In 2009 you also publicly spoke out against closing fire companies.
The City would be better served, you said, to make cuts to the budget or transfer funds from other agencies to fully fund fire companies, according to a December 12, 2009 report in the Baltimore Sun.
"There's only so much you can cut from the fire budget before you start affecting the lives of residents and firefighters," you were quoted saying in 2009, adding that you had expressed concerns about the closures since the plan was first unveiled.
Yet today, you are rejecting the Council’s plan that would prevent recreation centers and fire company closures, while investing in youth summer jobs and afterschool programming.
Your insistence on providing deceitful and misleading public statements – many of which have been debunked by the local media as exaggerated at best – about my budget proposal is troubling and harmful to the process of developing a workable solution to fund these key priorities.

I am calling on you to roll up your sleeves and engage in working with the City Council to help fund these important programs. The citizens of Baltimore deserve nothing less.

Bernard C. “Jack” Young
President, Baltimore City Council


TO:                  Interested Parties
FROM:           Andrew Kleine, Baltimore City Budget Director                   
DATE:             Wednesday, June 20th, 2012
SUBJECT:       Proposed FY2013 Budget

As the City’s Budget director, I wanted to take a moment to share some information with you about the proposed Fiscal 2013 budget.  The budget plan was built around the Mayor’s vision for growing Baltimore's population by 10,000 families. To that end, the budget prioritizes spending on the key issues that matter most to Baltimore's families: crime reduction, public education, jobs and economic growth, and core City services for neighborhoods.

The plan closes a $48 million deficit while fully funding the City's obligation to public schools, continuing an aggressive plan to hire hundreds of new police officers to keep crime going down, and providing funding for street repair and blight elimination—all while cutting property taxes for city homeowners.  Additionally, the budget supports significant funding for programs and services that impact the Baltimore's youth, despite the $48 million deficit, including:

•    Increasing funding by $3.1 million for the Baltimore City Public School System.  The City has increased school funding by $13.4 million over four years to meet its Maintenance of Effort requirement, while many wealthier counties have sought waivers from meeting their full payments.
•    Increasing funding for the YouthWorks summer jobs program. This funding, together with participation from public and private employers, will support 5,000 summer job placements. The budget includes a $130,000 enhancement to support the placement of 350 youth in year-round employment.  The City has only surpassed this number of job placements when it had federal stimulus funding. 
•    Maintaining funding for Youth Violence Prevention programs, including Operation Safe Kids.
•    Funding school-based health centers to keep kids healthy and in school.
•    Funding a new strategy by the Family League of Baltimore City for afterschool programs that will directly impact more students.  Funds for these programs, which originated during the housing bubble, have been protected through an unprecedented fiscal crisis.
•    Keeping all neighborhood library branches open to promote reading and lifelong learning.
•    Opening new Community Job Hubs in neighborhoods hardest hit by the struggling economy.
•    The Mayor has launched a new summer youth initiative called “Super Summer” which seeks to increase the number of city youth enrolled in summer meals, summer reading programs and Youthworks.
•    In addition, if the proposed budget passes without amendments, the Mayor has pledged to increase “Child First” afterschool funding through the Family League, restore funding to Experience Corps, and prevent of demotions of Fire Department, among other issues.

The Rawlings-Blake Administration has already cut $48 million from the budget this year on top of closing more than $300 million in shortfalls over the last three budget cycles.  Despite these major cuts that are already in place, some members of the City Council are seeking to cut an additional $6.3 million, including cutting resources to fight crime, which citizens consistently rank as their most pressing concern.  The impacts of the Council-approved budget cut amendments include:

•    18 additional city employee layoffs in Police, Transportation, Finance, BDC and BOPA.
•    Abolishing 10 police patrol positions, which would drive up overtime costs
•    Abolishing 15 positions in waste removal and recycling at a time when only 30% of City residents are satisfied with the City’s cleanliness
•    Abolishing 13 positions in street management, which would prevent the addition of a third repaving crew for neighborhood streets
•    Eliminating funding needed by the Health Department to pay rent for its facilities
•    Reducing or eliminating funding for positions in property tax billing integrity, accounting, procurement, and CitiStat, all of which were included in the budget to strengthen fiscal oversight

Again, these cuts are in addition to the $48 million in budget reductions already proposed in the budget.

The Mayor sent a letter to the City Council dated June 7 detailing her concerns about and alternative budget plan presented by the Council.  Those concerns include that the plan relies on inflating revenue estimates, raiding an underfunded reserve to delay cost-saving reforms to health insurance plans, and making arbitrary funding cuts that would impact services across city government.  The Mayor’s letter is attached.

Passage of an Ordinance of Estimates at a level below the budget proposed by the Board of Estimates would result in a property tax revenue surplus, which the City Charter prohibits from being used for supplemental appropriations (Article VI, Section 8(b)(1)). Surplus funding from the proposed cuts cannot be reallocated to other services.

Thank you for your interest in the City’s budget process.  For more information and documents about the City’s budget, visit:

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