- The Washington Times - Friday, March 19, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — More than 500 municipal jobs may be cut, fees increased and police, fire and trash collection services may be reduced to balance Baltimore’s budget, officials said.

Just as Mayor Martin O’Malley lends city money to help the ailing Baltimore schools, his top budget official said the city has barely enough money to deliver its own services next year.

To balance the $2.1 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the city would have to eliminate 533 jobs, including police officers and trash collectors, Deputy Finance Director Edward J. Gallagher told the Board of Estimates on Wednesday. Most of the jobs that would be cut are filled.

“The preliminary budget plan suggests the most significant service reductions that I’ve seen in my 22 years,” Mr. Gallagher said.

The recession and lost jobs that result in less revenue from income taxes are part of the reason for the budget woes. State aid, which will shrink by $6.1 million next year to $89.9 million, also is cited by city budget officials.

To avoid such cuts, the O’Malley administration would introduce a package of fee increases to the City Council on Monday, he said.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, said property taxes will not increase, but local levies must rise for the city to deliver critical services. Such increases would affect fees related to water use, energy consumption by companies, parking, telephone service and property transfers.

“We’ve been cut to a level that we can’t cut any more without affecting core services,” Mr. O’Malley said. “Some things may be more expensive.”

The preliminary budget represents a 2.2 percent decrease, or $44 million, from the this year’s spending plan.

Before the final budget is approved, the administration will need to come up with $34 million to maintain current levels of police and fire protection and trash collection.

The $42 million loan to city schools will not affect next year’s budget, Mr. Gallagher said. The money comes from an emergency fund, and the school system is expected to repay most of the money by August.

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