A revised budget to reflect the decrease in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic was introduced by Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks last month and approved by the Council on Friday, May 31. (Courtesy of princegeorgescountymd.gov)
A revised budget to reflect the decrease in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic was introduced by Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks last month and approved by the Council on Friday, May 31. (Courtesy of princegeorgescountymd.gov)

Prince George’s County unanimously approved a fiscal 2021 budget with an uncertain future amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The nearly $4.5 billion budget will keep essential services intact, but the pandemic has ravaged the majority-Black jurisdiction with at least 86,000 residents filing for unemployment and numerous small businesses temporarily shutting down.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsbrooks presented a revised budget last month that showed the virus created a $134 million decrease in revenues, including income, transfer and recordation taxes and licenses and permit fees.

To close the revenue gap, the county will use $30 million from the fund balance and implement a hiring and salary freeze. However, the budget doesn’t call for any employee layoffs or tax increases.

“[The coronavirus] has changed life as we know it,” Council president Todd Turner (D-District 4) of Bowie, said Friday, May 29. “At least for now, it has also changed the way this county council and this government operates.”

Education takes up the bulk of the spending plan, at nearly $2.8 billion, or 66 percent.

According to a revised plan, Board of Education funding decreased by $7.7 million, including $2.6 million in instructional salaries and $1 million toward special education. The county’s contribution of $460,000 to education exceeds the maintenance of effort, a state provision that requires county governments to provide a share toward school funding.

The pandemic will also affect The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the $4 billion education plan state lawmakers approved last month to increase teacher salaries, expand early childhood and hire additional mental health providers and guidance counselors.

The plan represents recommendations from the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, nicknamed the Kirwan Commission after its chair, former University of Maryland system chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, vetoed the plan but the Democratic-controlled legislature expects to override his veto when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

Although state revenues remain uncertain, Prince George’s will receive about $158 million form the federal Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES, an economic stimulus package approved by Congress to help state with budgetary problems due to the pandemic.

The money must be spent on items from March 13 through December. Alsobrooks proposed some of the money go toward $24 million for coronavirus testing, $15 million in grants for municipalities and almost $4 million to delivery meals for seniors and those with disabilities.

Because the virus hit the county the hardest in Maryland, residents have received thousands of donations in meals.

Team Takeover, a local youth organization in the Amateur Athletic Union basketball program, donated $75,000 to help with food insecurity. Alsobrooks filmed a short video to announce the donation alongside Team Takeover founder and head coach Keith Stevens, Denver Nuggets forward Jerami Grant and former unified middleweight boxing champion Jarrett “Swift” Hurd.

Even as Prince George’s permitted a modified reopening of some businesses Monday, June 1, the county’s financial future remains uncertain.

“While we cannot foresee the timing and circumstance of the eventual pandemic recovery, it is clear that Prince George’s County will grapple with the fiscal impact for years to come,” Turner said. “The fiscal year 2021 budget adopted [Friday], and effective with the new fiscal year on July 1, will change, and there will still be much work for us to do.”

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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