WASHINGTON — Raises, more first responders and additional money for libraries and education are all part of the $3.84 billion fiscal year 2018 budget proposed by Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.
Baker recalled tougher times, when he asked county agencies to take a 5 percent cut, work harder with less and work smarter. But now, Baker said, he is pleased to offer a little thank-you by proposing an increase in compensation for county employees, although the exact size of the raise will be determined during union negotiations.
The proposed budget increase of 3.5 percent overall includes more money going to education, public health and safety.
The proposed budget includes:
- A raise for county employees, which will be determined during union negotiations
- 2 percent increase for public schools
- 6.6 percent increase for county libraries
- 4.1 percent increase for Prince George’s Community College
- 200 new police recruits
- 25 new deputy sheriffs and four new civilian positions
- 115 additional Fire/EMS officers
- Two new State’s Attorney special prosecutors for child sex abuse cases
- Salary enhancements for emergency dispatchers
- Fall 2017 groundbreaking for the Regional Medical Center in Largo.
Changes from previous years
Despite the 2 percent increase for public schools, it is less than what was proposed in the two previous budgets.
“I think we gave them as much as we thought we could,” Baker said, noting other budget priorities also impact education.
“Our domestic violence program, our social program, our economic development — all of those things are going to have an impact on our education system,” Baker said.
At the Wednesday news conference announcing the budget proposal, Baker detailed that successes he said reflect the fact that the county is moving in the right direction.
Unemployment is down 50 percent since 2010; the county has added 18,700 jobs since then. High school graduation rates have increased 10 percent. Compared to a 2014 fiscal year projected deficit of $152.2 million, the projected deficit for fiscal year 2018 is $4 million.
“We reduced it big time,” Baker said. “It’s amazing!”
County coffers are in good shape for a number of reasons: Residential property values are up 61 percent since 2010; commercial real estate tax revenue has increased, and there’s economic stimulus related to the new MGM National Harbor casino and resort.
The Prince George’s County Council will hold four public hearings on the proposed budget beginning April 18. The new budget will be adopted by June 1.