Make Sure You Are Counted: Census 2020

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by T. Carter Ross

Despite the massive disruption we are all living with due to the current novel coronavirus pandemic, one American ritual is still happening — the decennial census. Making sure you and everyone in your household are counted is both a civic responsibility and critical to future funding for everything from public schools to public health to roads and bridges. Prince George’s County estimates that every person not counted means $1,825 less in federal funding per person per year. Not being counted costs our communities, including PGCPS, literally millions of dollars.

In addition, census count are used to determine the number of Congressional representatives for each state. The requirement for an “actual Enumeration” of everyone living in the United States is laid out in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution. The way the census is conducted and the level of detail included has varied over the years, but the count has been made every 10 years since 1790.

The 2020 Census is the first census to take a digital-first count. People are encouraged to fill out the questionnaire online at www.my2020census.gov. You may have received a letter with a census ID number, which helps with tracking responses, but you can use the site even if you do not have that number. If you prefer, you can also call the toll-free number 844-330-2020 to complete the census via telephone. In April, households that have not responded electronically will receive a paper questionnaire in the mail, and at some point in the summer they may receive an in-person visit from a census taker.

The questionnaire asks for basic information about who is living at an address on April 1, 2020, including name, gender, age, marital status, race and ethnicity, how people are related, and so forth. It does not ask about citizenship. (Some households are asked to fill out the American Community Survey, which is more detailed and asks more questions, including one about citizenship. Like the census, the ACS is used in distributing federal funding, as well as to assist state and local governments in long-term planning.)

There are scammers who will use the census to try and trick people into handing over personal information. The census never asks for banking or credit card information, your social security number, money or donations, or anything about political parties.

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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.

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A GCEI Primer: Everything You Need to Know About Maryland’s Geographic Cost of Education Index

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

Much has been made of Governor Hogan’s refusal to release $68 million of the IMG_6467cropGeographic Cost of Education (GCEI) funds. Prince George’s County alone stands to lose more than $20 million in anticipated funding for Fiscal Year 2016. What excatly are GCEI funds, and what does Hogan’s move mean for Maryland schools?

What is the Geographic Cost of Education Index?

The Geographic Cost of Education Index is a supplemental funding program designed to appropriate extra funds to school districts in Maryland with a high cost of educating students. Of Maryland’s 24 local school districts, thirteen have been designated — to varying degrees — as “high cost” school districts and receive GCEI funds. Those thirteen districts serve approximately 80% of Maryland’s public school students. (Read more here.)

Each school district receiving GCEI funds is assigned a predetermined adjustment factor which is multiplied by the per pupil foundation (base) funding amount for that school district, resulting in increased state aid. Prince George’s County’s adjustment is the highest in the state at 0.048 (followed by Baltimore City and Montgomery County), translating into a 4.8% increase in state funding over the foundation amount. (Find the GCEI adjustment, as of 2008, for all school districts in Maryland here.1)

So, is GCEI just a cost-of-living adjustment for school districts with higher home prices and incomes?

No. It’s much more complicated than that. The GCEI’s personnel cost index, which accounts for the bulk of the GCEI adjustment,2 is formulated to reflect the wages needed to attract teachers and other personnel for each district. The cost of attracting personnel is estimated to be higher in school districts that, through factors beyond their control, are deemed to be less desirable. Cost-of-living is a large component here, but the personnel cost index also factors in quality of life and working conditions outside the control of the school district. In theory, for example, a school district with a high cost-of-living and poor working conditions would need to offer higher wages than a school district with a comparable cost-of-living and better working conditions. In other words, tougher school districts need to offer better salaries.

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