Youth, af­ford­able hous­ing funds ap­proved

All amend­ments and bond mea­sures pass, in­clud­ing out­door cafes at the har­bor

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS ELECTION 2016 - By Colin Camp­bell cm­camp­bell@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/cm­camp­bell6

In ad­di­tion to elect­ing new lead­ers, Bal­ti­more­ans voted Tues­day to re­quire that city of­fi­cials set aside mil­lions of tax dol­lars each year for youth ac­tiv­i­ties and pro­grams.

The char­ter amend­ment for the Chil­dren and Youth Fund made the bal­lot af­ter the City Coun­cil unan­i­mously over­rode Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake’s veto of the leg­is­la­tion, which com­mits the city to spend­ing more than $11 mil­lion per year.

Rawl­ings-Blake has said the pro­gram would be fis­cally ir­re­spon­si­ble and would tie the hands of fu­ture may­ors, who she said could be forced to cut core ser­vices in tight bud­get years to fully fund the ac­count.

Vot­ers also ap­proved the is­suance of bonds for school con­struc­tion, park and li­brary main­te­nance, and eco­nomic devel­op­ment; the es­tab­lish­ment of out­door eat­ing stands at the In­ner Har­bor’s Rash Field and West Shore Park; the cre­ation of an af­ford­able-hous­ing trust fund; and more fre­quent au­dits of city agen­cies.

All 10 of the char­ter amend­ments and bond is­suances passed. Vot­ers usu­ally ap­prove bal­lot ques­tions, un­less there is fierce op­po­si­tion.

The Chil­dren and Youth Fund amend­ment ded­i­cates rev­enue rep­re­sent­ing 3 cents of ev­ery $100 of Bal­ti­more’s as­sess­able prop­erty to the fund each year. The as­sess­able base was most re­cently es­ti­mated at al­most $38 bil­lion, so the youth fund is ex­pected to get $11.4 mil­lion next year. That is on top of the nearly $375 mil­lion the city al­ready spends on schools, prekinder­garten, af­ter-school pro­grams, li­braries and youth health ser­vices.

The Af­ford­able Hous­ing Trust Fund cre­ates a ded­i­cated fund that was pro­posed by hous­ing ad­vo­cates. Un­like the youth fund, this char­ter amend­ment doesn’t re­quire money to flow into the fund; ad­vo­cates will have to per­suade of­fi­cials to put money in it. Money in the ac­count would be used to build and main­tain homes that ex­tremely low-in­come res­i­dents can af­ford.

Vot­ers also ap­proved in­creas­ing the fre­quency of city agency au­dits to ev­ery two years in­stead of ev­ery four. Also, three agen­cies not pre­vi­ously re­quired to un­dergo an au­dit will be au­dited. The au­dits will be over­seen by the city comp­trol­ler’s of­fice in­stead of the mayor’s of­fice of fi­nance, a move in­tended to give au­di­tors greater in­de­pen­dence.

Vot­ers also ap­proved bor­row­ing $6 mil­lion for hous­ing pro­grams, $34 mil­lion for school con­struc­tion and ren­o­va­tion, $45 mil­lion for eco­nomic devel­op­ment pro­grams, and $45 mil­lion for parks and recre­ation and li­brary fa­cil­i­ties.

The other three char­ter amend­ments will al­low for the out­door cafes at the In­ner Har­bor, award more con­tracts to small and dis­ad­van­taged busi­nesses to spur eco­nomic growth, and cor­rect an out­dated ref­er­ence in the char­ter.

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