After starting its meeting nearly an hour late Thursday, May 25, Prince George’s County Council unanimously adopted a $3.8 billion 2018 fiscal year budget in less than 15 minutes.
County Council Chairman Derrick Leon Davis read a prepared statement about the spending plan, which keeps the tax rate steady, anticipates millions of dollars in revenue from the MGM National Harbor casino resort and increases funds for public safety measures.
“This new and balanced budget and a stronger economy uniquely position Prince George’s County to take its rightful place as an economic engine in the region,” Davis said during the session at the County Administration Building. “Credit for this belongs in great part [to] the people of Prince George’s County.”
He said a one-time, $3.5 million contribution from the county’s Economic Development Corp. Incentive Fund will fill a budget gap and help stabilize developmental disabilities service providers that support 2,800 residents on a waiting list for assistance. One of the main goals of the fund is to hire and retain employers and increase jobs.
The plan calls for the money to last about two years until the state has a long-term plan to help fund organizations that assist people with intellectual and development disabilities. Advocates have said a subsidy became necessary after the county increased its minimum wage $2 above the state’s figure.
“We had the one-time opportunity and we were able to do it,” Davis said of the EDC funding during a press briefing after the meeting. “It was the one thing that we all agreed must have been done regardless of the outcome this year.”
If County Executive Rushern L. Baker III approves the budget, it will go into effect July 1.
Some educators expressed displeasure this week with a protest outside High Point High School in Beltsville, calling for an additional $97.7 million into the education portion of budget than previously requested by the school’s superintendent, according to a proposed budget document for county revenues.
About $1.9 billion, or 65 percent, of the budget goes toward education, including expansion of pre-kindergarten, employee health insurance and career and technology equipment.
The overall budget provides funding for 200 police recruits, 115 firefighters, 70 correctional officers and 25 deputy sheriffs.
Theresa Mitchell Dudley, president of the county’s teachers’ union, said programs slated to be cut include expansion of peer and mentoring for new teachers and cultural competency training.
“To say that you’re committed to our children and economic improvement in the county and then not fully fund the school system doesn’t make sense to me,” she said after Thursday’s meeting. “To add more additional correctional officers and additional police officers and not fund restorative practices, which could keep our children from getting involved in the school to prison complex in the first place, is ludicrous.”
Federal funding for initiatives such as the Purple Line light-rail project and a bid to relocate the FBI headquarters from Northwest to Prince George’s could produce millions in tax dollars for the county.
A judge ruled May 22 that officials with the Federal Transit Administration and state of Maryland failed to addressed how the Purple Line would affect Metro’s ridership and safety concerns. State Transportation Secretary Pete K. Khan said in a May 12 court filing that without environmental approval by Thursday, June 1, the state “will no longer have sufficient cash flow to continue funding ongoing pre-construction activities.”
Federal, state and county officials and residents continue to wait on the General Services Administration to make a final decision on whether to move the FBI site to Greenbelt, Landover, or Springfield, Virginia.
President Donald Trump has already proposed cuts to programs such as Medicare and community development block grants, which could affect the thousands of federal employees who reside in Prince George’s.
“I am extremely concerned about the budget nationally,” Davis said. “If Washington sneezes, we are going to catch pneumonia. I am really afraid of what will happen federally.”