Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III got an earful at a budget listening session in Upper Marlboro, Md. Baker held the second of his three sessions on Feb. 2 at the Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) with 200 people attending. The county executive didn’t speak about the budget but encouraged input from the residents.

County Executive Rushern Baker listened to residents’ complaints of litter and inadequate education facilities. (Courtesy Photo)

“These listening sessions give residents the opportunity to weigh in on the budget,” Baker said. “I will be delighted to have your ideas on how we should spend your tax dollars and would appreciate ideas on how to save dollars too.”

Baker’s staff handed out literature that said in fiscal year 2017, revenues will be $32 million higher, as a result of growth in real property and income taxes and expenditures.

The forecast for Prince George’s County is optimistic, the literature said, with $148.5 million above the fiscal 2017 budget and $101.7 million above the fiscal year 2017 estimated level.

In addition to the community college, budget listening sessions were held in Laurel and Oxon Hill.

“We would like for you to invest in the Promise Program, which helps Prince George’s County residents go to college,” said Antonio Morrell, president of the Student Government Association at PGCC. The program would provide scholarships for tuition and mandatory fees not covered by federal or state aid to county public high school graduates who are enrolled at PGCC. “The Promise Program ensures future success for our youth. It will help bridge education and eventually wage gaps. Community College should be debt-free for PGCC students and accessible to all those who want to attend.”

Other residents wanted Baker to use the budget to benefit county entities, such as allowing surplus county property to be available to non-profits instead of sold. Lois B. Wallace, a health care worker, wanted the county budget to help her colleagues. “Many health care workers are making the minimum wage and we need more money to live on and to continue to do our jobs,” Wallace said.

“We need more funding for health care staff,” she said. “We have a passion for what we do and with more county funding participants can get the care they need.”

Eight residents echoed Wallace’s suggestion. Some of the eight said they took on second and third jobs to make ends meet. Others professed considering a new line of work, even though they like taking care of others with special needs and the elderly, because of the pay.

Shee Newman had specific recommendations for Baker to include in his budget proposal. “I live in Westphalia and we need to increase litter pickup, a brand new school, a new park, and a red light camera at the intersection of Suitland Parkway and Pennsylvania Avenue,” Newman said.

“We can’t call ourselves Gorgeous Prince George’s when there is trash along the roads,” Belinda Queen-Howard, a resident of Wilburn Estates, said. “We need to clean up our roadways. We need to invest in schools, libraries and parks and recreation centers. We need to see that those recreation centers are connected to schools.”

On March 15, Baker will submit the budget to the Prince George’s County Council. That body will review it and hold public hearings for resident input. The council will adopt a county’s budget on June 1 and it goes into effect on July 1.