It is difficult to believe, but I am already midway through my first year in office. It is an honor to serve you. I have already worked on several significant pieces of legislation, which can be found here.
The FY2016 County Budget adopted by the County Council on May 28th will take effect on July 1st. That day I sent out a detailed budget statement, which you can read here and I've also created a budget overview here. Modest increases in the real property tax rate, personal property tax rate and telecommunications tax will raise $34 million for the PGCPS budget. This will offset the $30M+ unfunded mandate of the state shifting teacher pension costs to the County to enable funds to go to the classroom and covers state-required Maintenance of Effort.
- The County Council and PGCPS are moving forward on a long-requested external Continuous Improvement Performance Audit of PGCPS for the first time in 18 years. The audit will study how our tax dollars are being used and recommend potential cost-savings.
- The Council also approved legislation to create a Blue Ribbon Commission to study and recommend changes to address the County's long-term structural deficit. This commission will report to the County Council and County Executive in six months, around the same time that we will receive the results of the PGCPS performance audit. If you are interested in serving, please let me know.
- At the same time the budget was adopted, the County Council presented legislation (CB-33-2015) to require that 50% (up to $25 million annually) of MGM National Harbor gaming as well as resort tax revenue for education: K-12 education, Prince George's Community College and Prince George's County Memorial Library System, beginning in FY2017. These funds will not be allowed to supplant existing general fund funding.
I anticipate continuing dialogue on the budget for year's to come. As major commercial development projects come online, this discussion is even more important, so that new financial resources address critical existing needs and demands of a growing county. I encourage you to continue to be involved in this important dialogue on our county's priorities.
On Sunday, May 28th, I continued my "Experience, Expand, Explore District 3" event series by hosting a District 3 day at the Prince George's African American Museum and Cultural Center (PGAAMCC). The PGAAMCC may be in North Brentwood but it is truly a museum for all Prince Georgians. In addition to getting a sneak peak of the newest exhibit, Patented Ingenuity: The Art of African American Inventors, three District 3 residents shared the personal stories of their experiences-the history of the Lincoln community, the history of the Lakeland community and the story of being an eight year old girl and the first African American family to move into an all-White neighborhood in Seabrook. It was a wonderful afternoon and I am grateful to our residents who shared their personal stories and experiences with us. If you haven't visited the PGAAMCC, I hope you will take time to do so soon.
On June 11th, we had an informative hearing in Health, Education and Human Services (HEHS) Committee about the Food Truck Hub legislation Councilwomen Lehman, Toles and I have proposed. During the nearly three hour hearing we heard from all sides of the issue. Community activists spoke about the challenges the county had with unsafe and illegal roadside food vendors in the past and challenges we still have. A business owner raised questions.
The Prince George's Food Equity Council, Prince George's Social Innovation Fund, City of New Carrollton, DMV Food Truck Association and others voiced their support for the legislation remarking that it will increase healthy food options and help create vibrant places where Prince Georgians will want to work, live and play. We also heard from two Prince George's County residents who own and operate food trucks. Nnamdi Nwaneri, a graduate of Eleanor Roosevelt HS and current District 3 resident co-owns the Neat Meat food truck and David Lynch, director of operations at BONMi food truck and restaurants both shared their experiences. David is a graduate of UMD College Park and lives in District 2. Both Nnamdi and David would like to offer their high-quality food options in Prince George's County, rather than leave the County each day to operate their businesses.
I believe that we are striking a good balance with this legislation, opening the door to Food Trucks just a crack, with very strict guidelines for creating a Food Truck Hub, a strong cap on the number of Food Truck Hubs that can be created, stiff penalties for violations and strong regulations to ensure food safety. I welcome your comments.
On the morning of Friday the 12th, I was honored to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the Second Annual Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland Friendraiser. Habitat Metro Maryland's executive director and program services director have been attending the Bladensburg-East Riverdale Transforming Neighborhood Initiative (TNI) meetings for about two years as they have sought to engage more with our community. I volunteered to help build a Habitat house in college and am thrilled that this terrific organization is putting down roots in Prince George's County. We know the need is great, especially in our TNI neighborhoods. Habitat does more than just build homes. They also provide weatherization services and minor home repair. Please share these resources with your neighbors.
I am also pleased about another organization that is investing in Prince George's County and District 3: Real School Gardens. Through funding from Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic, the County Council and PGCPS, Real School Gardens will work with teachers and students at District 3's Beacon Heights Elementary and Templeton Elementary as well as Mary Harris "Mother" Jones Elementary in District 2 for the next three years. In my former role as chief of staff for Former Council Member Olson, I worked hard to bring this innovative program to our County and am very excited to see it beginning to bloom for our students. I hope you will take a moment to read the great article The Gazette published about their work.
Since taking office in December, nearly 500 residents have joined me at our "Experience, Expand, Explore District 3" events, including hosting the Department of the Environment at the Riverdale Park Farmers Market, honoring women entrepreneurs with the Prince George's Economic Development Corporation at the Thirsty for Business Thursday at SoBe Restaurant & Lounge, our District 3 Town Hall at William Wirt Middle School, a wonderful Non-profit Networking Breakfast, and "Sharing Our Stories" at the Prince George's African American Museum & Cultural Center.
Earlier this month, I hosted nearly 70 of our civic association leaders for dinner at Stonefish Grill in New Carrollton to thank them for their work and share important information for them to pass along to residents.
I hope you will understand that we are taking a short break from events for July and August but look forward to putting together an event for our seniors, another non-profit event, and a career and college fair this fall.
As always, please reach out via email or phone at CouncilDistrict3@co.pg.md.us or (301) 952-3060.
Together Strengthening our Community,