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Keeping tabs on the City Council's activities so you don't have to

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 5/6/2009

Bill 09-0325--Ord-inance of Estimates for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2010. Sort of a Readers' Digest condensed version of the city budget.

Bill 09-0326--Annual Property Tax--Fiscal Year 2010. These are the initial budget documents, specifying a proposed real property-tax rate of $2.268 per $100 of assessed value and $5.67 for cars and other personal property.

The read: This year's Ordinance of Estimates runs 35 pages, and it's best understood when set next to last year's Ordinance. Doing this we can see, for example, that Comptroller Joan Pratt's executive office is taking a nearly $150,000 cut, and her audit budget is shrinking by over $228,000. The Fire Department's down about $6 million, and a new Department of General Services appears, peeling away about $26 million from the facilities management, engineering and construction management, and permits divisions formerly handled by Public Works. In the Health Department, the "Acute Communicable Disease" fund shrinks by nearly $15,000, while the possibly relevant division of Public Health Preparedness and Response is down by another $83,000 or so, to roughly $622,000. Head Start's budget was cut by $2 million or so, and building inspections were cut by over $750,000. Services for Homeless Persons is scheduled to receive a boost. Its budget is about $41 million for the coming year, about $10 million more than last year. Also increasing are budgets for Neighborhood Services (by $1 million or so), Liquor Control (by over $350,000), and a new mayor-controlled office called the "Baltimore Economic Recovery team," funded at about $70 million. That team, which met for the first time in early March, is tasked with grabbing federal "economic stimulus" funds and turning them into Baltimore jobs. With debt service mostly increasing, and other tweaks, the "mayoral-related" expenses in the proposed budget are increasing by about $85 million over the current year's budget.

Resolution 09-0129R--Financial Literacy--Requirement for Graduation from Baltimore City Schools. Would ask the school board to create another test requirement for city high school graduation, this one involving financial literacy.

The Read: "There are young people who will come into a financial economy that is very different from the one we came into," Councilwoman Helen Holton (D-8th District) told the council as she introduced the resolution, adding that more people declare bankruptcy in the United States each year than graduate from college. We'd like to tell you more about this bill, but for three days running we were unable to access the bill's text through the City Council's legislation web server.

Resolution 09-0130R--Informational Hearing--The Status of Baltimore City's Gang Violence Reduction Activities. Asks the police chief and school police chief to join with the director of the Mayor's Coordinating Council on Criminal Justice to brief the City Council on gangs and what we're doing about them.

The Read: "Recently there was a lot of activity in Druid Hill Park that made the news," says City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway (D-7th District), referring to a meeting of about 100 members of the Black Guerrilla Family that was broken up by police just ahead of recent raids ("Guerrilla Warfare," Mobtown Beat, April 22). The council wants an update from Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld and Chief of School Police Marshall T. Goodwin, but also specifies "the Director of the Mayor's Coordinating Council of Criminal Justice," which seems to be a mash-up of the "Criminal Justice Coordinating Council," a judiciary-focused, state-wide group on which the mayor herself serves, and the Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice, which also has a "Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee." At any rate, someone from Mayor Dixon's office will no doubt explain.

"I don't mind removing Ben Franklin 'cause I don't see him any more in my wallet."

--Councilman Robert Curran (D-3rd District), during a debate about changing a school's name from Benjamin Franklin Middle School No. 239 to Masonville Cove Community Academy No. 239.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for May 18 at 5 p.m.

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