Notes on the Feb 21 Prince George’s County Council Town Hall Meeting

by Laura Rammelsberg

Informal notes on the Prince George’s County Council Town Hall Meeting that was held on February 21, 2017.

This is the first meeting in a series of meetings discussing the FY2018 Budget and the fiscal future of Prince George’s County. There will be more public hearings in the coming months.

Council Members in Attendance: Mary Lehman (District 1), Deni Taveras (District 2), Dannielle Glaros (District 3), Andrea Harrison (District 5), Mel Franklin (District 8), Obie Patterson (District 9)

Resources and materials:

Highlights of the Meeting:

The county has not recovered from the recession yet. Structural deficit will grow over the next six years.

Projected annual budget gap is $28 million to $229 million between FY2018 and FY2023, even after accounting for MGM Revenues.

There are three unique constraints on the county, which no other Maryland county has in this combination. The Blue Ribbon Commission on Addressing the Structural Deficit recommends the following:

  1. Repeal TRIM (Property Tax Cap)
  2. Repeal Question I, which prohibits levying new taxes without a public referendum.
  3. Maximize use of Homestead Tax Credit Cap (this cap is most restrictive in the State of Maryland). The County is losing $56-60 Million a year from the Homestead Tax Credit every year.

Secondary issues were discussed, but those are their three main recommendations.

The budget will be released March 15, 2017.

FY2017 will see $32 – $42 Million of revenue from MGM, but there will still be a budget gap of $4 – $219 Million.

Estimates of Outside Aid Revenue are projections based on school enrollment.

FY2018 will see $18.9 Million of Revenue from MGM. Not all of this will go to Prince George’s County.  As part of a State (?) Hold Harmless Clause in the contract, if the other MD casinos lose money (their earnings drop compared to prior year earnings) and the MGM revenues go up, there is a funding formula that calculates how much of the MGM revenues will go to ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY. The numbers for this formula are still being confirmed, so the county does not know how much of the MGM earnings will be going OUT of the county.

FY2018 has a $4 Million projected deficit. This includes an estimate of 4.8% growth above FY2017.

Has brief descriptions of the budget process and a schedule of the various budget hearings.

PGCPS Budget

36% comes from the County
56% comes from the State
5% comes from the Federal Government
Remainder comes from other sources

Outside aid coming into PGCPS is mainly from the State of Maryland.

61.7% of the Prince George’s County Operating Budget is for the schools.

Capital Improvement Budget is separate from the Operating Budget, but is on the same budget schedule this Spring. It is a six-year plan. 58% of this budget is for Schools / Health.

PGCPS Budget Deadlines
March 1 – CEO Presents Budget to School Board
March 15 – Budget sent to County Council
June 1 – County Council must approve a budget

The County Council will have two meetings in May on the school budget. (One of those meetings will be held on May 2.)

The Council’s work sessions can be viewed online if you are unable to make it in person.

Public Comments:

There were a range of public comments from asking to reinstate 2-day-a-week garbage pick-up, to denying council members access to county vehicles (referencing a Washington Post article), to supporting various arts, history and homeless services in the community, to supporting the expansion of the language immersion programs in the County Schools.

After the Town Hall:

In an informal conversation after the meeting, one council member said that the budget CEO Maxwell came up with is beyond what the county is able to fund without additional revenue streams (such as a tax hike or more businesses coming into the county to pay commercial taxes). So, the council will pass a smaller budget, which the school board will then have to decide how to divvy up.

The council member said that it is good that CEO Maxwell is trying to raise the bar and set some high standards since it gives something for the school district to aspire to, but the money is just not there to fund it. The council member thanked us for coming and said that we should continue speaking out for the school and the school system.

 

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