With school funding rejected, Baker accuses council of misplaced priorities

Council calls for a proper audit and demands accountability and transparency in the future action.

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Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III lashed out at lawmakers Friday for rejecting his dramatic school spending plan and accused them of having misplaced priorities for approving a smaller tax hike to benefit county parks and planning.

In addition to a 4-cent property tax increase that will generate far less for public schools than Baker had asked for, the County Council on Thursday approved a 1 1/2- cent tax increase to provide additional revenue for the ­Maryland- National Capital Park and Planning Commission. The council rejected 15% and the 7% advanced suspiciously by the County Executive after a recent Federal lawsuit brought against the county in recent weeks.

“Why parks are more important than schools, I don’t know,” Baker (D) said in an interview. “Park and Planning is a luxury.” However, the council emphasized on a proper audit of the school system which has not been conducted in more than 20 years. The council also stressed  on a proper accountability and transparency of the county schools which has been lacking for many years. “This is one reason county citizenry are suspicious of County Executive Rushern Baker III”, one parent said recently in our streets.

The council also included small increases in the county’s hotel and telecommunications taxes in the budget it approved Thursday. Lawmakers rejected furloughs and layoffs proposed by Baker, introduced legislation to earmark revenues from the soon-to-open MGM casino for education, and established a commission to study ways to fix a structural budget deficit.

The council did away with a 37-year-old property tax cap by approving a 4-cent boost in the property tax rate, which will generate about $34 million more for public schools. Baker had sought a $133 million increase.

 “The county executive’s focus has been on education which is suspicious because high level administrators at Sasscer administrative building have been “eating” from the children reserve fund without accountability. But the council thinks that is too myopic a focus,” said Mel Franklin (D- Upper Marlboro), chairman of the council. “Our budget focuses on the entire government.”

The park and planning department — which is responsible for land-use, zoning and the county’s more than 1,250 recreational facilities — is facing a structural deficit, officials said. The agency is funded by a tax that is tied to property assessments. The tax will rise from 27.9 cents to 29.4 cents per $100 of assessed value unless Baker vetoes that provision of the budget.

During budget hearings, agency heads told the legislature they would have to make “drastic reductions” without more funding, saying that sagging housing values have cut into their revenue base.

According to Tom Dernog a former council man in Prince George’s County, some of the tax hike is meant to benefits the parks and an expensive project in Franklin’s District called the . See the tweet below! We are not sure of the Park in the southern Maryland but since Mel Franklin is approachable in some respect, we will find out as the time goes and report our findings right here. We asked Mr. Rushern Baker III for his comment but he refused to respond.

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