Thank you again for coming to my Town Hall last week. I appreciate that more than 200 of you took the time out of your evening to join me. I gave an update on progress in the County and throughout District 3. I talked about my legislative priorities and gave an overview of the fiscal environment in the County. You can view my presentation here.
As you may be aware, we are in the midst of a very challenging budget discussion in Prince George's County. On March 13th, the County Executive submitted his Fiscal Year 2016 (FY2016) Budget Proposal to the County Council and the County Council is tentatively scheduled to vote on the proposal on May 28, 2015.
Since March 13th, when I first saw the County Executive's budget proposal, I have been reading the budget, asking questions, talking with constituents and responding to your questions. My County Council colleagues and I have been holding public budget hearings and meeting with County agencies in open County Council Committee hearings where reviews by our team of auditors are presented.
The County is in its third year of a structural budget deficit, which means that expenditures have been higher than revenues for the past three years. That gap is currently projected to expand through 2020, even after new annual revenues of $35M - $41M from MGM start to be realized beginning in Fiscal Year 2017. There are a host of reasons for this challenge, including the effect of sequestration, foreclosures, contractual obligations, and slower revenue growth. The future is bright, but the projects are only now being built.
In 2012, the state, to address its own budgetary challenges, also shifted a portion of education pension costs to the County. Prince George's County has gone from making no educator pension payments to taking on $19.5M in FY2013, $29.6M in FY2016. In FY2017, the County will take on the full responsibility, about $40M annually.
While the "15 cent" tax increase in the County Executive's budget proposal is getting a lot of attention, the entire proposal is much broader. The County Executive is proposing four items to address the County's structural deficit while at the same time meeting service needs:
- Hotel Tax Increase from 5% to 7%
- Increases in Building and Licensing Permitting and Technology Fees
- Laying off 110 currently filled County positions
- 5 Furlough days for all County employees
For education, the proposed increase of $135.7M for PGCPS (total budget almost $2 billion) would be funded with some internal PGCPS reductions and the following increases:
- Real Property Tax Increase from $0.96 to $1.11 per $100 (homeowners)
- Telecom Tax Increase from 8% to 12% (all telephone lines)
- Personal Property Tax Increase from $2.40 to $2.78 per $100 (businesses)
To understand more about the budget and the proposal, please use these helpful links:
- To find the County Executive's Budget Proposal, the public hearing dates, an overview of the budget process and more here.
- Specific agency budgets are here.
- Materials from the County Council Education Town Hall meeting with County Executive Baker and Dr. Maxwell on the proposed investment in education.
- Read more about the PGCPS Strategic Plan here.
There are additional opportunities to learn more and voice your opinion.
On April 27th, the Board of Education is hosting a community discussion, "Promise of 2020: The PGCPS Strategic Plan" from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at Eleanor Roosevelt High School (7601 Hanover Pkwy in Greenbelt). They are providing refreshments and free child care. Call (301) 952-6115 to register. This should be a good opportunity for you to ask specific questions about the plan and goals for the school system. The BOE is also asking for your feedback on the proposal.
The last two County Council public hearings on the budget are coming up on Tuesday, April 28th and Monday, May 4th, both at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Hearing Room, County Administration Building, First Floor, 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive in Upper Marlboro. I urge you to sign up to speak at one or both of these hearings to share your views with me and the entire County Council. Please sign up in advance by calling the Clerk of the Council at (301) 952.3600. They will also be streamed live here, so if you are not able to come to Upper Marlboro I urge you to watch them at home. There will be brief presentations about the budget at the beginning of each hearing.
The County Executive is hosting a Community Conversation on the PGCPS Investment in District 3 on Tuesday, May 12th, at 6:00 p.m. at University Park Elementary School (4315 Underwood Street in University Park). This event is another opportunity for you ask questions and share your comments directly with County Executive Baker.
As a graduate student at UMD in Public Policy, I learned firsthand in my local budgeting class that a budget is ultimately a set of choices - you know that is the case with your personal household budget. Before us are a host of choices of what will get funded and what will not and how we want to pay for it.
In these remaining weeks before I must cast a vote on this budget proposal, I need you to continue to dialogue with me, with your neighbors, and with the County Executive. Please plan to attend the remaining public hearings or view them online and share your thoughts and questions with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have no crystal ball on where this budget will land, but I will promise to you that I will weigh heavily all of your thoughts and work hard to deliver a budget that uses your hard-earned dollars wisely and continues to move Prince George's County forward.
Together Strengthening Our Community,