Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Monday announced the first of a series of fiscal reforms designed to head off a financial nightmare that a recent projection suggested could be heading the city’s way.
Rawlings-Blake’s plan, outlined in her state of the city address, includes increasing the city’s borrowing capacity, increasing reliance on pay-as-you-go funding, and pension reforms. The mayor stressed the need to act before Baltimore runs into serious trouble in the future, after recently released a ten-year fiscal forecast her office commissioned from Philadelphia-based Public Financial Management, Inc. showed the city facing a nearly $750 million budget shortfall by 2022.
“Our charge is to grow Baltimore, to rebuild a thriving city where more families choose to live, but we cannot build the foundation of a growing city on the mud of a fiscal swamp,” Rawlings-Blake said. “As a community, we must reject the status quo and embrace a call for bold action. We must change to grow.”
The mayor said the $1 billion infrastructure investment gap highlighted by the ten-year forecast should be erased with further allocations from the annual budget. The city’s 10-year plan calls for an additional $370 million of infrastructure investment over the next decade, along with an “increased commitment” from the state.
“We must invest in infrastructure by increasing pay-as-you-go funding in our budgets and increasing our borrowing capacity, while still protecting our bond rating,” she said.
A pension reform requirement that employees make contributions for civilian pension benefits would help save money to pay salaries, and the city could reduce the size of the municipal workforce by 10% without mass layoffs, Rawlings-Blake said.
The mayor announced a Feb. 20 reveal of the details of the reform plan, titled “Change to Grow: A Ten-Year Financial Plan for Baltimore.”
“The Ten-Year Financial Plan requires tough trade-offs and major changes to past practices, but it also makes investments that reward the future,” Rawlings-Blake said.