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Rawlings-Blake's 2013 Budget Plan Includes Closing Fire Stations & Rec Centers

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Putting Baltimore on a budget. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake reveals a spending plan for the city that is already causing controversy.

Political reporter Pat Warren has more on the preliminary proposal.

The mayor is looking for cuts that will allow the city to offer a tax break to homeowners.

"Our goal is to get Baltimore growing again by 10,000 families over the next 10 years, and this budget is the first of several to come that will help us in achieving that goal," the mayor said.

The budget includes the first 2 cent installment of a plan to reduce homeowner property taxes by 20 cents over the next eight years—which will eventually be offset by slots revenue.

"We knew at the time that we developed the plan that the slots wouldn't be open, so we knew that we could do that through some of the innovative ways that we're saving money," Mayor Rawlings-Blake said.

City employees will not get a cost of living raise, but for the first time in recent years, they won't have to take mandatory furlough days. They will also pay higher costs for health benefits.

The budget also eliminates 231 positions, most of them unfilled.

As the city seeks to close a $48 million budget deficit, the mayor plans to stop rotating fire station closures and permanently close three fire companies.

"We're looking to have an efficient government," the mayor said.

According to the mayor, closing three fire companies is in keeping with that efficiency.

"It gives some permanency, reliability and predictability, and it allows the department to plan every day whatever day of the week it is for those closures, so they can respond more efficiently to calls," the mayor said.

The fire union calls the closures risky.

"Our job basically is to save citizens of Baltimore and do what we can for them. With the resources being cut, it makes our job harder. I don't care who says what. It makes our job a hell of a lot harder," said Rick Hoffman, Baltimore Firefighters' Union.

The plan also includes consolidating the city's 911 and 311 call centers and closing some recreation centers.

There are eight recreations centers in particular that could close if the city is unable to find private operators to run them.

This is a long process that will require hearings and final approval by City Council.

The new budget takes effect July 1.

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