Baltimore's Budget Surplus to Go Toward IT, Public Improvement

The city’s proposed $2.9 billion operating budget is expected to have a $33 million surplus thanks to increased revenues. Officials say that surplus will be split between technology upgrades and improvement projects.

by Ian Duncan, The Baltimore Sun / March 28, 2019
Baltimore, Md., City Hall Shutterstock/f11photo

(TNS) — Baltimore officials proposed a $2.9 billion operating budget for the coming year Wednesday, adding almost $100 million in spending on services — a 3.4 percent increase over the current year.

Budget director Bob Cenname said the city has a $33 million surplus, thanks to higher than anticipated revenues and slightly lower spending than forecast.

The money will be divided between spending on information technology upgrades, the demolition of vacant houses, fixing up city-owned buildings and renovating public markets.

Cenname briefed reporters Tuesday afternoon on the budget’s highlights, but did not share the full document.

Here’s what he said is planned:

» Baltimore Police Department spending in the city’s general fund will increase $14 million to $506 million; $5 million of that is to begin upgrading police radios.

» A new police contract agreed on with the officers’ union is forecast to be cost neutral. Raises and incentive payments in the contract are expected to cost $5 million in the coming year, but a change to the patrol deployment schedule should save $5 million in overtime.

» The police department would get $400,000 to hire four crime lab technicians to work on fentanyl cases, helping track down dealers of the lethal opioid.

» The city plans to increase the current 95 red light and 75 speed cameras to 100 of each. Revenue is projected to remain steady at about $21 million as drivers learn to slow down and stop at red lights, reducing the number of tickets each camera issues.

» The budget includes $15 million in demolition funds, an increase of $5 million as the city launches an ambitious plan to tear down more than 2,000 vacant houses by next summer.

» It includes a first payment of $15 million into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and $13 million for the Children and Youth Fund.

» The independently run and largely state funded city school system would get $375.6 million in financial support, an increase of $3 million. That includes the last $38.5 million chunk of aid the mayor pledged three years ago to help the schools until a new state budget formula is developed.

» The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts would get $500,000 to be used, in part, to market the Preakness Stakes, as Mayor Catherine Pugh fights to keep second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown in the city.

©2019 The Baltimore Sun. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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