Prince George's council seeks meeting with state leaders to discuss funding shortfall
Chairwoman: It's a little lower than what we expected'
The Prince George's County Council is calling for a meeting with state leaders after learning the county will not receive as much money as anticipated in fiscal 2012.
"It's a little lower than what we expected or needed," said Council Chairwoman Ingrid Turner (D-Dist.4) of Bowie, who asked council staff Tuesday to set up a meeting with state leaders and County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) before the General Assembly session ends April 11.
The council learned during a budget briefing Tuesday that Prince George's is expected to get between $6 million and $14 million in additional state aid; the county had sought about $20.9 million more, the amount Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) cut from the schools' original funding request.
Both the House of Delegates and the Maryland Senate have each passed their own versions of the state's $14.6 billion budget, said Thomas Himler, the county's director of the Office of Management and Budget. The House version will result in about $6.8 million more for the county. The Senate version gives about $14 million more, which is tied to a proposed 3 percent hike on the state's alcohol sales tax that would need to pass the House. The two chambers are expected to meet in the next two weeks to resolve differences.
Neither version has as much as the county wanted, Himler said.
"We did get the additional state aid," Himler told the council at a briefing Tuesday. "But there are additional costs as well."
In both budget versions, lawmakers increased the amount the state spends per student, which will bring Prince George's about $10.3 million more, Himler said. But next year, Maryland is also requiring the county to pay about $163 per worker a total of $2.4 million for the pensions offered to employees in the Prince George's public schools system, community college and library system.
Matthew Stanski, chief financial officer for the county school system, said the county based its $1.6 billion education budget on the assumption it would get the additional $20 million.
Council members have met extensively with state leaders this session, legislators said. The heads of the county delegations, state Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Dist. 23) of Bowie and Del. Melony Griffith (D-Dist. 25) of Upper Marlboro, said Wednesday they did not know if another leadership meeting could be scheduled with so little time left in the session.
Council members may not understand the entire budget, where funding is based on student population, county wealth and many other factors, said Peters, a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.
"The formulas, unfortunately, don't favor us this year, but they will be better in the future," said Peters, who said increased enrollments and economic recovery would mean more state dollars in upcoming years. "But if you look at the state aid to local governments, we're getting more than a billion dollars, the second most in the state. Montgomery County only got $810 million."
Baltimore city is getting the most state aid, Peters said.