Statement: Comptroller Bill Henry on the FY23 Proposed Budget

Crest of the City of Baltimore

Bill Henry
Comptroller,
Baltimore City
204 City Hall - Baltimore Maryland 21202
(410) 396-5410

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT
Geoff Shannon, Public Relations Officer
(410) 387-5704

geoff.shannon@baltimorecity.gov

 

Today, I voted yes on sending Mayor Scott’s Proposed Ordinance of Estimates to the City Council. My decision did not come lightly; I have given it considerable thought over the past few weeks.

All budgets are policy statements made by the executive; in Baltimore City, that’s the Mayor. The City Council – as the legislative branch - plays an oversight role through its public hearings and its limited authority to make changes, in that it can only cut spending, not reallocate it. Thanks to a charter amendment that I sponsored and advocated for as a councilman, that authority will be less limited starting with the FY24 budget, when the City Council will be fully empowered to move money around in the annual Ordinance of Estimates.

With that being said, our Charter doesn’t grant the Comptroller any role in formulating the budget or deciding how to appropriate funds. That is a power granted solely to the Mayor, through the Department of Finance and its Bureau of Budget & Management Research. The preliminary budget is publicly reviewed and approved by the Board of Estimates, but what gets sent to the City Council for final review and adoption is effectively up to the Mayor, who has three votes on the Board. Even together, neither the Comptroller nor the Council President will ever be able to override a decision of the Mayor’s at the Board of Estimates.

I recognize this might be considered a significant departure from the reasons given for my abstention vote last year. To be clear, it is not my beliefs that have changed, as much as my understanding of my role has clarified. The Comptroller functions primarily as a watchdog, encouraging more responsible management of the City’s finances, using audits to help agencies perform more effectively and efficiently, reviewing – and often times challenging – the various spending deals that come before the BOE.

As for what I think of this budget, I’ll say this: I am excited that this budget increases infrastructure spending by over 50%, invests in attracting new residents by strengthening our partnership with Live Baltimore, gives DHCD more resources to acquire vacant properties & speed up the disposition process, adds staffing capacity to the Minority and Women's Business Opportunity Office and makes a $2 million contribution to the Fair Election Fund.

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