Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake proposed a 2014 fiscal-year budget that aims to close a $30 million budget shortfall while protecting core city services and reducing property tax. The mayor hopes to take the $30 million from the City’s Mobile Equipment Fund and change the City’s vehicle purchasing method to a lease finance model to free up the funds.

The City currently pays the entire capital cost of each vehicle up front. Under the lease financing approach, the purchase of each vehicle is financed over its useful life.

According to budget documents, Fleet Management maintains more than 5,600 pieces of motorized equipment, with an average vehicle age of approximately 8 years. The mayor’s administration estimates that without a change in approach, the estimated average vehicle age will continue to rise to 9.2 years over the next 10 years, leading to higher maintenance and repair costs, higher fuel costs, and more downtime. The Mayor’s proposal to use a lease finance model to purchase vehicles would allow the City to modernize its fleet more rapidly than under the previous model, reducing vehicle age to 4.2 years.

The one-time fleet fund transfer will be used to for road and bridge repairs, recreation center upgrades, blight elimination, and IT modernization.

In addition to the new purchasing model, the City is also evaluating its optimal fleet size. Based on its review of the fleet and the planned fleet modernization, the City hopes to reduce fleet size by at least 5%. A smaller fleet should result in lower fuel and maintenance costs.

The budget proposal also increases fleet operating budget from $42.7M to $51.1M in fiscal-year 2014.

The proposed budget would put into effect some of the initiatives identified in the City’s Ten-Year Financial Plan released by the mayor in February. The Ten-Year Financial Plan aims to close a $750 million structural budget deficit. Earlier in February, a consulting firm presented a study stating that Baltimore would face “financial ruin,” or a $744.8 million deficit over ten years, if it didn’t make financial changes, according to Reuters.

The budget must go before the Board of Estimates and City Council for approval.