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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading