UPPER MARLBORO — The Prince George’s County Council (PGCC) adopted its fiscal year 2020 budget, a total of $4.3 billion for all funds, on May 29.
Eight out of 11 members of the county council gathered to formally adopt the budget, which includes a general fund budget of $3.6 billion and a total of $4.3 billion for all funds. The budget will officially go into effect on July 1, 2019.
“Our achievement of this new balanced $3.6 billion general fund budget and a total budget of over $4.3 billion offers a strong statement for the priorities as a community whether it is education, public safety, health care, quality of life, economic and transit-oriented development, infrastructure and the environment,” said County Council Chair Todd Turner during the meeting.
The theme for the county council this year is service, community and progress, Turner said. In addition to working with County Executive Angela Alsobrooks for the first time, he emphasized that working with the residence of Prince George’s County has been critically important throughout the entire budget process.
“I think we had a positive outcome to our budget process and I’m looking forward to continuing to serve our citizens and making sure they get the services that they so deserve,” said County Council Vice Chair Rodney Streeter.
According to Alsbrooks, this year’s budget process was a challenging one as the county began the process with a $48 million deficit.
“However, working with the county council and our great team in the Office of Management and Budget, we passed a budget that reflects our priorities, especially in the area of education, while also maintaining the sound fiscal policies that have allowed us to keep our Triple-A bond rating on Wall Street,” she said in a statement.
The council received a lot of input from the public through residents, either attending public hearings or submitting their requests online such topics included the extension of library hours, feedback on education and expansion of the Summer Youth Enrichment Program.
As one of the top priorities of the county, education comprises 60 percent of the county budget with a $2.1 billion operating budget. The county also received a significant amount of money from the state as part of the Kirwan Commission’s Blueprint For Maryland’s Future bill.
In addition to funding Prince George’s County Public Schools, the county council put money toward funding the requests of Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) and the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS).
During a budget work session on April 17, PGCMLS CEO Roberta Phillips requested funding for more staff and extended library hours throughout the county and the fiscal year 2020 budget funds expanded hours on Fridays and Sundays for some of the county’s library system.
With the reconstruction of a series of libraries in the pipeline, $13.1 million has been allocated from the Capital Improvement Plan in fiscal year 2020 for the Hyattsville Branch Library, the next library in line to be replaced. The library is expected to be finished by the end of 2020. The budget also includes $6.9 million towards renovations of the Surratts-Clinton Branch Library, which is scheduled to be complete in 2020.
Additionally, at the April 17 budget work session, PGCC requested additional funding to go towards renovations to its Largo Student Center. Their $59 million capital budget contains $38.8 million for the renovation of Largo Student Center as well as $8.5 million for improvements to Lanham Hall and $87.2 million for the Queen Anne Academic Center.
The county budget fully funds public safety with special considerations for homeland security, emergency preparedness and safety and recruit classes, Turner said.
Funding for public safety totals $793.9 million, a 5.2 percent increase over the FY 2019 budget and is the largest public safety budget of the last five years. It goes towards the Police Department, Fire/EMS Department, Department of Corrections, Office of the Sheriff, Office of the State’s Attorney, Homeland Security and the Circuit Court.
The budget supports recruitment classes to add new police officers and members of the Fire/EMS Department and the Department of Corrections. The Capital Improvement Program includes funding for the construction and renovation of facilities such as the Hyattsville Fire/EMS and Shady Glen Fire/EMS and a Public Safety Training Facility and Headquarters
According to Turner, funding will also restore the Teen Court Program within the State’s Attorney’s Office, which diverts first-time juvenile offenders from the juvenile justice system, giving them a second chance.
The fiscal year 2020 budget continues the county’s efforts to invest in infrastructure with an emphasis on transit-oriented development and development around the county’s Metro stations, Turner said. This includes legacy projects such as the Purple Line which will receive $20 million.
Funding has been allocated for the purchase of 20 new buses four paratransit buses and maintenance of more than 760 bike station docks. Additionally, a new Transportation Services Improvement Fund has been established for 2020, a total of $1.5 million which will fund Capital Bikeshare station maintenance, refurbishing buses, expanding bus service and improving access to high-quality taxi services.
The budget invests in the environment with a collective investment of $201.7 million towards the Stormwater Management Fund the Solid Waste Management Fund, and the Local Watershed Protection and Restoration Fund. Also, over the next 20 years, the county plans to invest $1.10 billion into improving water quality, an effort that will be led by the Department of the Environment and the Department of Public Works and Transportation.