Reporting Pat Warren
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Spending cuts. The City Board of Estimates has hired a consulting firm to find ways to save money.
Political reporter Pat Warren explains, it’s a 10-year plan that could mean drastic changes.
Call it housecleaning, downsizing, or streamlining, the target is city spending. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is rolling up her sleeves, and she’s hired a company to help with the heavy lifting.
“Across the country, the great recession has exposed fiscal vulnerabilities at all levels of government and ushered in a new reality some have called the new normal,” Rawlings-Blake said.
Employee and retiree benefits are in the crosshairs. Benefit costs are up 85 percent since 2000, according to the mayor. The city will spend $270 million on health costs this year, and Rawlings-Blake says $80 million of that will be spent on prescription drugs.
“That’s $80 million spent on pills alone,” she explained. “Employee healthcare costs continue to grow even as our workforce gets smaller.”
The City Board of Estimates on Wednesday approved a $460,000 contract with the consulting firm Public Financial Management to develop a 10-year financial plan for the city. In addition to changes in benefits, the plan may consolidate some city services, and eliminate some programs altogether.
“If we bury our heads in the sand and fail to deal with this fact, public safety will suffer, our economy will suffer, and Baltimore will fall backwards, and I’m determined that will not happen,” she said.
The plan will include comparisons made between Baltimore and neighboring jurisdictions in the state of Maryland, as well as similar cities in the rest of the United States.
In response to changes in the benefits, the president of the Firefighters Union Local 734 tells WJZ the union has complete faith that the mayor will do the right thing for city firefighters and police officers.