Monica Goldson (at podium), interim CEO for Prince George's County public schools, speaks during a press conference at Beacon Heights Elementary School on April 12. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Monica Goldson (at podium), interim CEO for Prince George's County public schools, speaks during a press conference at Beacon Heights Elementary School on April 12. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

In one of the most laid-back budget sessions of recent years, the Prince George’s County Council unanimously approved a $4.3 billion fiscal year 2020 with a major focus on education.

Nearly $2.1 billion, or 60 percent, will be used to hire additional teachers, paraprofessionals and school facility projects.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks made education a top priority in her first budget proposal.

“As team leader for our county, [Alsobrooks] gave the council a great running start and has continued to work with us throughout this budget process to achieve our shared priorities …” said Council Chair Todd Turner (D-District 4) of Bowie.

State money helps with the majority of education spending in the budget approved May 29.

About $90 million would come from state funding with portions from the “Education Blueprint for Maryland’s Future” such as college and career readiness programs and resources from special needs students. Those came from recommendations made by the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission led by William E. “Brit” Kirwan, former chancellor of the University of Maryland System.

When students begin the 2019-20 school year, they expect to see 123 new teachers, 90 aides, or paraprofessionals, 23 school psychologists and 18 pupil personnel and school social workers.

Educators did speak out during the public hearings to request an increase in salaries which were frozen amid the 2008 recession.

Interim schools CEO Monica Goldson announced May 14 to offer raises for employees whose salaries were “frozen” between 2010 to 2012. The $46.5 million proposal over a three-year plan would affect up to 8,300 persons.

The budget will also allow some libraries in Prince George’s to expand Friday hours and open on Sundays. However, it’s up to each individual library on the hours of operation.

In regard to public safety, the police department will not only be able to hire 100 new recruits in five different classes, but also receive state assistance to install no more than three speed cameras along Route 210. The nearly 21-mile highway stretches from Oxon Hill near the District border into neighboring Charles County.

Another part of public safety, the second-largest expenditure in the budget at 22 percent, also plans to 60 additional correctional officers and 48 fire and emergency services personnel.

Meanwhile, Alsobrooks also focused on making the county tidier. She proposed to revert trash collection to twice a week, but will go with a plan to start at 3,000 homes to collect food and yard waste on one day and trash another.

About $200,000 will be aside to purchase waste containers and expansion of food waste collection. In addition, about 12 new positions would be created in the Department of Environment for trash pickup.

“This first budget cycle for me was an exciting time,” said Rodney Streeter (D-District 7) of Hillcrest Heights. “We had a positive outcome to our budget process. I just look forward to continuing to serve our citizens to make sure they get the services they so deserve.”

Although the council approved the budget 8-0, three members — Thomas Dernoga, Jolene Ivey and Mel Franklin — weren’t present.

Ivey said she received a copy of the budget at 12:45 p.m., 30 minutes before council’s session at the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro.

“I was surprised [the council] started voting before we had a chance to read it,” Ivey (D-District 5) of Cheverly said. “So I was reading it. Seems pretty reasonable.”

During a press briefing after the council passed the budget, Turner said all council members received a final version of the budget.

“It was unanimous of the people who were there,” he said. “Like every budget, there are things people want to see. Could we do everything for everybody? We couldn’t do that.”

The budget will go into effect July 1.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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