Prince George’s County Proposes 5 Percent Cuts to All Departments Except Public Safety and Education

An article in The Gazette by Jeffrey Lyles, reported on Prince George County’s $3.19 billion budget proposal that would bring about 5 percent cuts to all departments except in education and public safety. The objective of the proposed budget is aimed at generating $5 million in fiscal 2013:

“We’re in fiscal 2013, but our revenues are back to fiscal 2008 levels,” said Thomas Himler, director of the county’s Office of Management and Budget. “That’s not a pretty situation to be in. That’s our biggest challenge. Funding all these priorities.”

Hence, Himler blamed the housing market as one of the reasons for why the County’s job market is currently scarce:

… [T]he economy [is] “essentially flat” from the current fiscal year due to a tight job market and [the housing market] still struggling.

The county’s reliance on the property tax base resulted in another hit to revenue as real property taxes decreased $25.7 million in January 2012. The decline has officials expecting the county’s property revenue base to drop from $72.1 billion in fiscal 2012 to $68.5 billion in fiscal 2013.

Himler said as a result of the many foreclosures since 2007, the average median sale price of county homes has dropped from $330,000 to $162,000.

Furthermore, County Executive Rushern Baker III stated that the proposed teacher pension shift also had an effect on the budget:

“We’re realists,” Baker said. “We know the pension shift is coming, and we’re just hoping it will be less of an impact on us. We don’t have ways to raise revenue to cover it.”

On the education front, Baker’s budget proposes $1.64 billion in funding — a $29.2 million increase from the amount approved in fiscal 2012. County aid will decrease by $4 million from $617.5 million to $613.5 million as state funding is expected to increase from $874.3 million to $907.1 million.

“[The county funding for schools] only appears as a reduction because [the school system] lowered the amount that they asked for,” said Terri Bacote-Charles, acting director for the office and management and budget. “This is still $21 million over the Maintenance of Effort requirement.”

In addition, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, elaborated on her support for the $543.2 million proposed for public safety:

“Our office has long been understaffed and underfunded… Without prosecutors, every person who was arrested by the police would go free. With additional positions, we will enhance our ability to prosecute cases in a firm, fair and consistent manner.”

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