Jobs Not at Risk in Council-Approved Budget

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The Prince George’s County Council adopted the fiscal year 2012 budget last week, keeping many provisions that Prince Georgians asked for.

“Together with Council-initiated enhancements, we have approved a budget for fiscal year 2012 that sends a clear and unmistakable message to our citizens,” Council Chairwoman Ingrid M. Turner, D.-Dist. 4, said at the hearing. “We heard you. We listened. We are working for you.”

The final budget set aside $1.6 billion for education, which is about 61 percent of the budget, along with $408 million for public safety.

It also saved the county from having to layoff or furlough employees—an achievement Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker does not take lightly.

“I am pleased to announce that my office and the County Council have worked together to produce a budget that advances our priorities without furloughing or laying-off hard-working employees,” said Baker in a statement. “I am especially encouraged by the Council’s approval of $50 million set aside for the EDI Fund, which will spur economic development, create jobs, and grow our commercial tax base.”

In that vein, the Council says it was especially vigilant of the employment situation of many residents, which is why it set aside funding that will help put residents back to work with the Department of Public Works and Transit (DPWT). The Council, spurred on by Councilman Mel Franklin, D.-Dist. 9, set aside $10 million for DPWT roadway improvement with the hopes that 51 percent of those projects will be manned by county residents.

“I’m glad that throughout our discussions my colleagues supported [the initiative] and I again commend Councilmember Franklin for what we on the council call the Department of Public Works Stimulus Economic Development Program,” Turner said.

The Council was able to save funding for busing students to magnet programs at schools outside of their residential districts. This funding was championed by many in the county, especially students, teachers and parents involved in Suitland High Schools Visual and Performing Arts program. However, the funding came with a caveat as the council has ordered the school board to study alternatives to the current system because Council members say it has simply become to expensive for Prince George’s.

“The school board is required to come back in no later than six months to have a plan or study to demonstrate how this transportations system will be resolved,” Turner said.

“We cannot continue to sustain the system. The school system is supposed to work [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the Bus, our transportation system, to come up with a plan and send a proposal back to us.”

The Council also secured funding for Camp Schmidt, a traditional overnight field trip location for fifth-graders in the county’s public schools as well as funding for the Reading Recovery Program although it has been reorganized to save money.

The Council also wishes to provide a $750 one-time bonus to county employees.

This budget will go into effect July 1.