Mayor Pugh’s Proposed Budget Prioritizes Schools, Police

Baltimore City has released its Fiscal 2018 Preliminary Budget Plan. The budget totals $3.9 billion, including $2.8 billion for operating expenses and $1.1 billion for capital investment. The General Fund budget totals $1.83 billion, a 3.8% increase from the Fiscal 2017 Adopted Budget. The plan includes a major new commitment to City Schools, maintains core City services, continues property tax reduction for homeowners, and targets investments to make the City cleaner and safer.

From The Baltimore Sun: 

The $2.8 billion spending proposal closes a projected $20 million shortfall in part by reviving the city’s once-troubled speed and red light camera program, which is projected to generate $8 million annually. Pugh also proposes refinancing the debt-burdened, city-owned Hilton Hotel downtown.

The budget funds some of Pugh’s signature initiatives, including launching mobile employment centers and adding 6,000 new street lights across the city.

Recent budget debates have focused on spending on police versus education. Several City Council members, including Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, have said they want to spend more on schools and less on law enforcement.

Pugh’s budget would increase funding for both. Baltimore’s contribution to its public schools would increase by $22 million to a total of $288 million — part of a city-state plan to help close the school system’s $130 million budget shortfall. …

State and city officials have negotiated for weeks to come up with a plan to help close the massive budget shortfall in the city school system to avoid widespread layoffs. Gov. Larry Hogan has committed about $24 million to help close the gap, while state lawmakers have proposed eliminating about $14 million in required spending by the school system.

Even with Pugh’s pledge of $22 million and schools CEO Sonja Santelises’ proposed cuts at the central office, a funding gap of about $40 million remains for the coming school year. ….

The growth in spending in Pugh’s budget is made possible by rising revenues. The city expects to receive a more than $60 million increase from property and income taxes next year after six years of job growth. …

The budget shrinks city government by three positions, and gives all workers a 2 percent raise, costing about $20 million.

The city’s capital budget is $1.1 billion. Most of that funding is for water and waste-water projects needed to keep up with a $1.2 billion consent decree to stop sewage leaks and help clean up the Chesapeake Bay by fixing Baltimore’s aging infrastructure.

The budget also includes $12 million for a new voter-mandated “Youth Fund” and $39 million for recreation and parks. The police budget increases by $17 million to a record-funding level of $497 million. Six million dollars are included to help keep the Charm City Circulator running.