The Prince George’s County Council recently approved the county’s $2.6 billion budget. The budget will eliminate some of the furloughs county officials expected, but it’s still not enough to completely bail the county out of it’s financial hole.

Overall, fiscal year 2011 budget provides $4.3 million more in funding for Prince George’s County than FY 2010 and over $25 million more than the budget proposed by Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson.

Chairman of the Prince George’s County Council, Thomas Dernoga, D-Dist. 1, said there were three main areas where the council tried to provide more funding for the County – schools, social services and public safety.

For the school system and social services, there was a concern the county would have a shortfall in its maintenance of effort. Dernoga said the Council was doing its best to work on meeting the standards in both areas, but the biggest help came from the county’s legislators in the Maryland General Assembly in the form of the $18 million disparity grant. Earlier this spring, Maryland changed it’s formula for calculating how funding in the disparity grant is disbursed.

“We now have a more accurate picture of wealth in the state of Maryland,” said Del. Melony Ghee Griffith, D-Dist. 25. “Therefore the disparity grant being reformulated with that new information does not penalize Prince George’s County as heavily as using the earlier dates.”

Furloughs have been a big issue this election cycle as candidates have consistently had to answer question about eliminating those. Dernoga says the council knew before it started working on the budget that it was going to work hard to get rid of furloughs.

“The council decided from the beginning,” Dernoga said. “We heard a lot of feedback at the hearings and people were worried that we’d go back to furloughs. We certainly heard about it, but we assured people that those things were not going to come to pass.”

Though the council worked to eliminate shortcomings in the budget, it still recognizes that it will have to sacrifice certain positions. “The one thing that was difficult to do was provide even more funding to the school system,” Dernoga said. “We’re happy we provided an additional $6 million, but we probably needed another $15-20 million, but that’s something we couldn’t do.

“That’s just the downside of things where we wish we had that opportunity.”

The budget also calls for a cap on county income tax. Public safety funding is set to go for staffing and equipment for the county’s firefighters and EMS workers.

The budget goes into effect July 1.


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO