Although the coronavirus pandemic has created financial uncertainty nationwide, Prince George’s County property owners will likely be spared a tax increase next fiscal year.
The county’s proposed $4.5 billion fiscal 2022 budget outlines an increase of nearly $57 million, or 1.3%, from the current budget.
Other initiatives include a director of race and equity in the police department, an immigrant affairs division within the county’s Office of Community Relations, and $1 million for the Summer Youth Enrichment Program for those ages 14 to 22.
“We continue to invest in residents and their changing needs,” said County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who released the spending plan Thursday. “As we move forward, we must continue to invest our resources with discipline in the face of uncertainty.”
Education remains the main item allocated at $2.3 billion, or 62% of the budget. The figure represents a nearly 3% increase from the current budget.
Other expenditures include recommendations from the state Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a robust education plan with a focus on mental health services, expansion of early childhood and college and career readiness.
About 65 clinicians are proposed for the community schools, which are designated to provide before- and after-school programs, mentorship and vision and dental services.
Shalia Ferguson of Capitol Heights, who cares for her two goddaughters ages 6 and 7, wants the budget to incorporate funding on training educators and support staff working with special needs students.
Her goddaughters have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the younger child is also autistic.
“I understand the budget is tight,” she said. “There needs to be more classes for teachers to understand different type of kids. Just because you have a doctorate behind your name doesn’t mean you … know what’s going on. They need more training.”
Ferguson said money could come from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan he signed into law Thursday.
According to a summary from Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, Maryland Democrats, the state would receive $3.9 billion from the package dubbed the American Rescue Plan. Some of the money will help distribute COVID-19 vaccines, hire front-line workers and provide other emergency services.
The proposal includes:
• $1.4 billion for transit systems including Metro.
• $1.75 billion for local systems.
• $1.17 billion for county governments.
Prince George’s County anticipates receiving $176 million, the second-highest amount in the state behind Montgomery County’s amount of $204 million.
Municipalities in the county such as District Heights would receive about $6 million.
During a roundtable Friday with Reps. Steny Hoyer and Anthony Brown, District Heights Mayor Johnathan Medlock asked how long would the municipality have to spend the money. The stimulus guidelines show municipalities have until Dec. 31, 2024, to use the funds.
“You will have an extended period of time,” Brown replied. “We don’t want to force [jurisdictions] to hastily spend the money. We know there are certain services you need to address.”
The other revenues cited in Prince George’s budget proposal would come from federal and state dollars toward the public schools, which represent $1.5 billion, or 40%, of the general fund. Property taxes account for the second-highest at $985 million, or 26%.
A timeline for virtual public hearings, scheduled to begin next month, can be found here.