Release: Baltimore’s Capital Budget is Not Distributed Equitably, Audit Finds
Monday Feb 6th, 2023
204 City Hall - Baltimore Maryland 21202
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Geoff Shannon, Public Relations Officer
Baltimore, MD - The Department of Audits (DOA) evaluated the Planning Commission and Department of Planning (DOP)'s capital budgeting process to determine how the City of Baltimore prioritizes capital projects and whether funds are distributed equitably. The audit covers fiscal years 2021 and 2020.
City Auditor Josh Pasch presented the findings at the February 1, 2022 meeting of the Baltimore City Board of Estimates. The audit found that the City's capital budgeting processes for equity require significant improvement.
DOA reported four findings concerning equity efforts as part of the DOP’s Biennial Audit:
- The criterion used to evaluate capital improvement projects based upon equity requires improvement. A formal City-wide process to evaluate capital budget submissions based on equity and other factors was not in place during FY 2021 and FY 2022 but have been instituted during FY 2023.
- Although the Evaluation Criteria and Scoring Guide was implemented, 40 percent of the CIP budget is not reported for equity purposes. The process to measure and report the distribution of capital projects based on equity is incomplete.
- The opportunity to strengthen City resident engagement in the capital budgeting process currently exists. Major agencies such as DHCD, DPW, and DOT have a limited process for community engagement which reaches a small segment of the population.
- The absence of a City-wide equity plan allows a fragmented approach to determine where limited City resources should go.
Each year, the Charter mandates that City agencies submit their capital budget proposals to the Planning Commissioner. A 2019 law provides guidance on how the City must budget equitably in order to close gaps in previously redlined and under-resourced communities. Historically, Black-majority neighborhoods have received less investment and attention from local government than white-majority neighborhoods.
In response to its findings Audits provided a list of recommendations focused on improving equity criteria to meet equity requirements established in the City Charter. A full list of recommendations are available in the report.
The Department of Planning agreed with the Audit’s review and presented an action plan in its agency response. Action items include:
- Convene capital budget agencies to brainstorm next steps for equity analysis, particularly for weighting equity and other criteria.
- Issue a Request for Information (RFI) for consultant support for equity analysis.
- Include recommendations for data structures and reporting requirements in RFI for consultant.
- Convene capital budget agencies and community planners to brainstorm next steps for community engagement and evaluation of recommendations from citizens.
- Survey other cities to understand whether and how they collect input in a way that doesn’t favor those who already have access to influence, resources and power and if the community input process has resulted in a more equitable distribution of resources.
This audit comes on the heels of Baltimore City Recreation & Parks Biennial Performance audit that found the agency is not fully compliant with the City’s equity assessment program for both operational budget and capital budget.
In response to the budget presentation, Mayor Scott affirmed that the Department of Equity & Civil Rights and the Department of Planning will work together on a proposal for a consultant to draft a city-wide equity plan.
“It doesn’t matter how many choir members go to practice, if they aren’t singing out of the same hymnal,” said Comptroller Bill Henry. “I hope this report serves as a springboard for a better, more effective, execution of our equity goals.”
The DOP audit is published at the Comptroller's website.