Can you balance Baltimore's books? Rawlings-Blake unveils new budget site - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Dec. 17, 2014 12:53 pm

Can you balance Baltimore’s books? Rawlings-Blake unveils new budget site

City budget officials currently project a $30 million hole in the fiscal 2016 budget. Where will that money come from? The city is asking residents to chime in.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

(Photo via Twitter, file)

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is putting together the next city budget and she’s asking city officials, legislators and everyday citizens to share their ideas.

To that end, Rawlings-Blake and city Budget Director Andrew Kleine today announced Budget Live!, a website that will allow city residents to offer suggestions — while also opening the books on city expenses.

Try it out

“City government is most effective when it receives input from the citizens it represents,” Rawlings-Blake said in a release. “When residents are involved in the process, we can make better, more informed choices.”

City government could use the help.

Based on first-quarter numbers, city officials project a $15 million deficit for the 2015 fiscal year and a $30 million gap in the fiscal 2016 budget. That’s where residents come in.

“We are excited for citizens to visit Budget Live! and tell us their priorities for how tax dollars are spent,” Budget Director Kleine said in the release.

Kleine also pointed residents to his department’s Twitter feed and to the mayor’s budget workshops, slated for next month.

The Budget Live! website includes the current fiscal year’s budget, details on successes and challenges, an open forum to discuss and question budget issues and even a budget simulator to see if you can balance the budget yourself. The simulator will be available through Jan. 30, according to the release.

Balancing the budget yourself is easier said than done.

Dying to increase weekend hours at your Enoch Pratt Free Library branch? All well and good, but how do you come up with the $500,000 to pay for it? Or would you rather save $2 million by closing two of the library’s less-frequented branches? And how do you fill the budget gap? Do you move the police department from four to three police helicopters? Do you shorten city pool hours?

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Baltimore isn’t the first city to let citizens try their hand at balancing the municipal budget. Los Angeles and Seattle have deployed similar websites.

Budget Live!

A screenshot from the “Open Budget” section of the city’s new Budget Live! website. (Via baltimorecity.gov)

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