Controversial Proposal would help pay for education reform in Prince George’s County…
Despite PG County’s already heavy tax burden, Mr. Rushern Baker III proposes real property, personal property and telecom tax increases against the governor Larry Hogan’s wishes not to increase taxes in Maryland.
Facing rising costs and flat revenues, Prince George’s County is preparing to lay off over 100 employees and furlough 6,000 others, while asking county residents to tighten their belts in the form of increased property taxes to help pay for education reforms officials say are needed to move the school system forward.
“The proposed FY 2016 budget includes the financial resources necessary to support higher educational achievement,” County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said in a letter outlining his objectives in the $3.6 billion budget. “The outcome of this investment will be a county school system that will be most noted for rapidly improving its schools by implementing high quality educational programs and rigor for all students.”
Baker presented his budget to the Prince George’s County Council on Friday afternoon. The council must pass an approved budget by June 1.
The school board approved a $1.93 billion budget Feb. 26, challenging county government to meet their request for program expansions and improvements school system CEO Kevin Maxwell said are necessary to improve the system, including expansion of pre-kindergarten, arts education, digital literacy and peer teacher review.
To fund the $135.7 million increase over last year’s school budget, Baker’s chief budget officer Thomas Himler said the county is turning to a bill passed by the General Assembly, Chapter 6 of the 2012 Laws of Maryland. Chapter 6 allows counties to raise property taxes higher than the caps set in their charter, so long as those funds are used only for education.
To compensate for flat revenues and increasing costs of doing business, Baker is proposing layoffs for 110 county employees.
“We haven’t identified what those 110 positions are yet, that’s part of the next few months’ process,” Himler said.
In addition, all county employees paid through the General Fund — over 6,000 employees — will be required to take five days of furloughs, Himler said.
Himler said the layoffs and furloughs are expected to save the county $15 million.
“With revenues not coming in and us having higher expenditures, year after year, this budget was tough, and there were some tough decisions,” said Baker spokesman Scott Peterson.
The budget does include a $48 million increase for public safety, including 100 new police recruits and 35 new officers in the fire department.
Baker’s budget raises the county’s real property tax rate from $.96 to $1.11 per $100 of assessed value, and raises the personal property tax rate from $2.40 to $2.78 per $100 of assessed value. The rate increases are expected to generate $115.7 million, according to the budget proposal.