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(Board of Estimates)

Series Description

The Baltimore City Board of Estimates was created by the new 1898 municipal charter, and its first meeting was held on March 20, 1900. The composition of the board and its duties have changed over the years, but its three main functions - to prepare the annual budget, oversee the city's income and expenditures, and regulate the use of city property - have remained the same.

The major function of the Board of Estimates each year is to prepare the city's budget, known as the ordinance of estimates. To do this the board receives information on each department's anticipated expenses (these official records of appropriations are in series 5). The board also estimates the amounts needed for capital improvements and previously committed by law or by contract and also gathers information on the city's anticipated income from licenses, fees, rents, and taxes.

Once the budget is prepared the board's main activity is to oversee spending; the record of this activity is its minutes (series 1) and administrative files (series 3). Large expenditures must be bid and currently the Board of Estimates awards bids, although until 1946 expenditures over $500 were bid and contracts awarded by the Board of Awards (see RG 37). Then workcosting over $2000 (after 1964 over $5000) was formally bid and awarded by the Board of Estimates. Copies of these formal bids are retained five years and then discarded with copies of the contracts awarded in RG 35. Work costing under $2000 is usually bid informally through the Department of Finance; these bids are microfilmed and retained for five years.

Other controls on spending by the board include the power to increase and decrease salaries and to control the contingent fund, a fund used to cover unexpected expenses. Requests for use of this fund are passed on by the board. Information on these requests is in the minutes (series 1) and the administrative files (series 3).

The last major responsibility of the Board of Estimates is control over the use of city-owned property. The board grants franchises or the right to use streets, highways, sidewalks, wharves, or any city property. "Minor privileges" to use city property are recorded in the minutes (series 1).

For more information see the city charters for 1898, 1918, 1946, and 1964. See also Frederick P. Stieff's, The Government of a Great American City (Baltimore: H. G. Roebuck and Son, 1935), pp. 84-90 and Jacob H. Hollander, The Financial History of Baltimore (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1899), pp. 360-61, 363-64.

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DateSeries NameDescriptionSchedule NoMSA Citation
  Details1900-2006MinutesA complete microfilm set of the minutes from the first meeting of March 20, 1900. There is an index to the minutes filmed at the beginning of each year starting with 1911. However, there is an exception for years 1978-1986 which appear on a separate reel of microfilm (BCA 5175). Information in the minutes is amplified in the attachments, the Board of Estimates files (series 3), and the cassette tapes of meetings (series 2). For some years the attachments have been filmed with the minutes; when they are not included with the film the attachments can be seen with the manuscript minutes in the comptroller's office. Agendas summarizing the items to be covered are in series 4.155BRG36-1
  Details1970-1989Meeting TapesBeginning in 1970 the Board of Estimates recorded its meetings. BRG36-2
  Details1940-1973Administrative Files

Files relating to requests made to the Board of Estimates, arranged alphabetically by the agency making the request. Before 1966, except for scattered items, the files were all discarded after twelve years (see also series 6). Beginning with 1966 the files are screened, retaining only historically significant items. In the majority of the files the request was read verbatim into the board's minutes and is therefore discarded after the twelve year retention period. The files retained are those requests which were accompanied by supporting documents such as reports or contracts that were not included in the minutes or the amendments to the minutes. Also included in thses files are the requests which were deferred (and presumably not acted on) and general reports to the board. These are filed at the end of each year.

A complete listing of original file folder headings is available at the Baltimore City Archives.

  Details1971AgendasThe agendas summarize the requests placed before the Board of Estimates at each meeting. In most cases the requests are approved as they appear on the agenda.155BRG36-4
  Details1922-1961Official Record of Appropriations

Each year city agencies submit to the Board of Estimates a budget for the next fiscal year listing the amount requested and the actual amounts requested and appropriated the previous year. The amount of information in the budgets varies from year to year, but there is always a break-down between salaries and expenses.

See also series 6. The only extant copy of the 1913 estimates is in RG 9, series 35, box 60.

  Details1900-1923HRS Indexed RecordsThis series contains the type of material found in series 3, administrative files, and series 5, record of appropriations, but because the material was separately indexed by the HRS project, it has been maintained as a series. The bulk of the material is departmental estimates of expenses and the same as those found in series 5. The remaining material is requests made to the board such as those found in series 3. These requests concern leasing space on the rebuilt harbor piers (1904-08) and street openings (1922-23). BRG36-6
  Details2004-2006Board of Estimates FoldersThis series contains the detailed information on requests to the Board of Estimates from city agencies, generally requests for additional funding.1250BRG36-7
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