Prince George’s County residents have a laundry list of items they want prioritized in the county’s fiscal 2023 budget proposal, including affordable housing, lowering property taxes and other quality-of-life issues.
Some also requested money for their nonprofit organizations. Lisa Smith, executive director of the Bowie Business Innovation Center at Bowie State University, requested $100,000 for the center.
“With continued county financial support, we can directly contribute to the county’s economic growth,” she said Tuesday during a more than two-hour virtual listening session on the budget, the first that sought public input regarding the matter.
The county’s current spending plan of about $4.5 billion earmarks more than half of that total for the public school system, which has already released its own proposed budget of $2.6 billion.
The main proposals include $229 million for student technology, $140 million for mental health support and $132 million to hire additional staff.
The county plans to allocate portions of $176.6 million it received from the federal American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion stimulus package President Joe Biden signed into law in March.
The money, which must be spent by 2024, can go toward water and sewer projects, assisting small businesses and other coronavirus-related services.
Food support can be one of those benefits, which several residents and nonprofit leaders encourage County Executive Angela Alsobrooks to support.
A food security task force offered 11 recommendations that include using $250,000 to create a food security office with a director and staff to coordinate and leading various programs with other county agencies, private businesses, local farmers and residents.
Adam LaRose, director of advocacy and public policy at the Capital Area Food Bank, said outreach must be done to ensure more residents participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). He said about 17% of county residents who are eligible aren’t enrolled in the program, which accumulates to $17.2 million in federal dollars going unused annually.
“We urge you to use all the leverage and funding at your disposal to support our clients in need,” he said.
Any budget suggestions reviewed, researched and recommended would be assessed by Alsobrooks and her budget staff.
“I’m really pleased to tell you that many of the priorities that you expressed have already been included in our budget,” she said. “I am more optimistic than ever we are going to be able to move our county forward in a way that really does reflect the values of this community.”
The county council has the last say in the budget approval process, which must be completed before the next fiscal year begins on July 1.