Baltimore City Public Schools leaders say they have found another $30 million to cut into the remaining $70 million budget gap for next school year, and the head of the Baltimore City Council says he may know of another $10 million that the city could redirect to schools.
According to an update from City Schools, the $30 million would come from “cuts and restrictions on spending and hiring at the district office.” City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises said at a school board meeting last night that the money is not “new savings,” but rather money that was already identified.
The original size of the 2017-18 deficit announced in January was $130 million. Santelises wrote in a letter that it could mean layoffs of up to 1,000 staff members, including teachers and custodians, as well as cuts to basic services and programs.
After a series of ongoing rallies by parents, teachers, students and others, Mayor Catherine Pugh and Baltimore Del. Maggie McIntosh announced earlier this month that the state and city could redirect $180 million in total over the next three years – an average of $60 million per year – toward schools. The money would be split nearly equally between the state and the city for next year, with the city’s portion coming in part from snow removal and rainy day funds.
If approved, that would bring the deficit down to $70 million. The contribution from City Schools, meanwhile, would further reduce it to $40 million.
Council President Jack Young also offered to help at a rally yesterday by saying the city could redirect $10 million within the city budget. According to the Sun and WBAL-TV, it would come from police, with a focus on drawing from reserves for overtime. His suggestion follows a promise from Mayor Catherine Pugh following the racketeering indictments of seven Baltimore police officers to audit the Baltimore Police Department’s overtime budget. The officers were accused of stealing money from the city by filing for overtime while on vacation, among other offenses.
Advocates of maintaining continued police spending may oppose this change at a time when violent crime continues to rise in Baltimore. Compared to last year, homicides and non-fatal shootings are both up more than 40 percent through the third week of March. Total violent crime, excluding common assaults, is up 29 percent.
Should the money make its way over from police to the schools, the budget gap would still be significant at $30 million. City Schools’ update says there may be additional cuts to fill that hole.
“We are also continuing negotiations with our unions to identify potential savings through things like furloughs, changes to employee health insurance, or salary freezes,” the school system’s website says.
The budget is due on April 7.
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