UPPER MARLBORO – Amid Governor Hogan’s decision to withhold state aid the Prince George’s County Public Schools system (PGCPS) had expected to receive, county officials are still trying to figure what to do with the budget with only a limited amount of time left before approval. Because of Hogan’s decision to not fully fund the […]
UPPER MARLBORO – Amid Governor Hogan’s decision to withhold state aid the Prince George’s County Public Schools system (PGCPS) had expected to receive, county officials are still trying to figure what to do with the budget with only a limited amount of time left before approval.
Because of Hogan’s decision to not fully fund the Geographical Cost of Education Index, PGCPS will receive almost $5 million less than state aid, while County Executive Rushern Baker III has proposed a budget asking residents to contribute more than ever with a $133 million contrubtion.
The county anticipated receiving a contribution of at least $45.9 million in state aid resources to the school system, according to Tom Himler, deputy chief administrative officer for finance and budget for Baker’s office, but after Hogan decided to cut GCEI, total state aid decreased by $4.8 million to $41.1 million. The county
“Once (Hogan) made his decision, that essentially moved the revenues from state sources and other sources down by about $5 million,” Himler said. “It lowers (our projection) by almost $5 million. So they’re going to have to make additional cuts to deal with that. It’s all fluid, because the county council has the budget now, but they would have to find $5 million worth of reduction somewhere from what we proposed in March.”
The county would have received $40 million from the state for GCEI funding, but only received $20 million after the governor slashed half of the funding statewide. The 50 percent cut will save the state $143 million.
Charly Carter, director of Maryland Working Families said she does not believe Hogan is as committed to education around the state as he says. Because of cuts in state aid, Carter said, some school systems around the state will have to cut essential education programs.
The state has been able to make great strides in education with GCEI money, Carter said, and cutting this money will slow the school system’s progress down.
“Through the entire legislative session, we saw him say ‘We’re all here to get along. We’re all one state’,” Carter said. “And then the very next day we saw the other face of Larry Hogan with the budget that slashed education funding. He came out with this radical budget. It just shows a lack of experience.”
The county has no clue where the reductions will come from at this point, Himler said, because the council has not sorted out the final shape of the budget and how much the county will invest in education. Whether the county will hold remain steadfast on their investment in the school system remains to be seen.
Baker has already proposed raising the real property tax rate by 15 percent—above the charter limit. He also proposed raising the county’s personal property tax rate from $2.40 to $2.78 per $100 of assessed value. Telecommunication taxes will be raised from 8 percent to 12 percent on top of those increases.
Despite the $5 million loss in state funding, Himler said, the county will not be exploring options in recovering that funding involving additional tax increases. The county will not be asking for more money on top of what is already proposed, Himler said.
“It’s all in the mix of the tax increase. The vast majority of the $133 million investment from the county was the proposed tax increases. We’re not committing additional funds beyond that, but we’re still working with council to figure out what the number is going to be.”
The school system is slated to receive $1.93 billion in Baker’s proposed budget.
One thing the county council must determine, Himler said, is whether they will deal with the complete $20 million loss of funding in its entirety or if they will recover the net $5 million hit the county is taking from state aid.
Once council adopts the budget and Baker reviews it, Himler said, the budget will go back to the Board of Education, which will have to work with the school system to restructure their budget based on what the county government decides to do.
“If it’s $5 million less, the school system will have to identify $5 million in reductions and then they’ll bring that final plan back to the county for review,” Himler said.
The county council has until May 28 to finish its budget review and make a final decision. The council and Baker’s office are still in negotiations about what the budget will look like, Himler said.
The Sentinel has previously reported that some councilmembers have issues with the way the county’s budget is currently constructed. Councilwoman Mary Lehman said taxes have already risen enough on residents and the school system already receives a large portion of the county’s budget.
The county executive’s budget proposal has gone “above and beyond” what is required to meet the county’s Maintenance of Effort funding for school system reform, she said.
“When you talk about $.64 on the dollar, my goodness, how much is enough?” Lehman said. “I don’t know. I’m not pretending I do. But certainly the sky cannot be the limit.”