UPPER MARLBORO – Budget season is in full swing, and citizens from around the county are taking advantage of the opportunities they have to make their opinions known about the spending plan. Council Chair Derrick Davis said it was encouraging to see so many citizens come out to the hearings to make their voices heard […]
UPPER MARLBORO – Budget season is in full swing, and citizens from around the county are taking advantage of the opportunities they have to make their opinions known about the spending plan.
Council Chair Derrick Davis said it was encouraging to see so many citizens come out to the hearings to make their voices heard or watch the livestreams, but the county has “more requests than it has money” each year.
“The budget process for Prince George’s County, for the several years I’ve been here, has been a learning experience,” he said. “I’m so, so impressed that many have (participated) and understand the process.”
A sizable crowd turned out for the county council’s first public hearing on the budget on May 2. Many were there in support of organizations such as Joe’s Movement Emporium and the Bowie Business Incubation Center. Representatives of direct service provider (DSP) organizations also came out strongly to continue their advocacy for county funding to allow the providers, who work with people with intellectual and physical disabilities, to earn county minimum wage.
South County was particularly well-represented at the hearing.
Sarah Cavitt of the Riverbend Estates Neighborhood Association said the group was somewhat divided – as is much of the county – by the once-a-week trash collection that began last year. But they ultimately support the proposal.
“The consensus actually is to continue. Savings from that can be better used with a more efficient bulky trash process, which is where we’re getting most of the complaints at the present time,” she said.
She also said the group found the county’s budget proposal had a “little lack of specificity” regarding the legislative branch’s portion of funds and requested the council provide additional details on some of the grants and other items for the public.
Another resident, Mark Noblett, also questioned the budget documents produced by the county, saying the budget in brief document did not include a ranking of proposed projects by priority or cost-benefit analyses for programs. He also said expenditure decisions should be based on what the residents would want their dollars spent on.
“I think with all the requests and all the demands for funding, the question you might want to ask, which is one that is being asked at the federal level now, is what would the taxpayer want their money to be spent on?” he said. “You have two at-large county councilmembers that you managed to get through that get $1.8 million a year, and yet we have a loss of leaf removal in the county. We have trash removal once a week now, and expenses that just really make no sense.”
Noblett also said the projects funded should demonstrate a good return on investment instead of “pennies on the dollar.”
A later speaker, Preston Mears from District 9, said for him, one of the areas that did result in a return on investment is the Food Equity Council.
“Getting all these parts working together is immense and it’s terribly important. A little investment, what’s the return on the dollar? It’s that little bit of oil that gets everything to work,” Mears said.
Ron Weiss, also from South County (in District 8) said citizens would benefit from more investment in the Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement (DPIE). He said 60 percent of the DPIE service requests logged in the county’s open data system are open, and of those half are overdue. Weiss suggested that was partly due to the agency being short-staffed, as discussed by the council at its budget worksession with the agency.
“I am asking that you use more of my taxes to retain and hire more DPIE property standards inspectors,” he said. “There is a relationship among blight, reduced property values, a diminished tax base and increased demand upon government services. That means, to me, communities become net consumers of government services rather than net generators. However, that can be turned around.”
He also praised the county’s Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative (TNI) for helping to lower crime rates in Oxon Hill – Glassmanor, but said other neighborhoods in Prince George’s County could benefit form more government attention as well.
“I think that turnaround made the residents there feel empowered and they took ownership of their community,” Weiss said. “What works in Glassmanor-Oxon Hill works for the rest of us. Many of us, if not most of us, are not in TNI areas. We live in established communities that are showing signs of aging. We, too, need the support.”