PGCPS Board wants to keep option open for big tax increase

PGBUDGET004a1426282030Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III, center right, with Kevin Maxwell, chief executive for PG County public schools, center left, and Segun Eubanks, chairman of the county County Board of Education, right. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

By Arelis R. Hernández

The Prince George’s County Board of Education on Thursday reiterated its support for a state law that allows the county executive to raise property taxes above the existing limit if the extra revenue goes directly to education.

The 2012 law came under intense scrutiny during last spring’s budget battle, when County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) used it to justify a proposal to raise property taxes by 15 cents per $100 of assessed value in order to fund a robust education spending plan. The proposal was rejected by the County Council, which adopted a smaller tax increase.

During the debate over Baker’s plan. some critics threatened to try to change the 2012 law during the legislative session that begins next January, so that the county executive could not attempt a similar tax increase in 2016.

The school board’s Policy, Legal and Legislative Committee voted Oct. 15 to remove language supporting the 2012 law from its legislative platform, a document that outlines the board’s stance on issues likely to surface in Annapolis or Upper Marlboro.
 But during the full meeting of the board on Thursday, board member Curtis Valentine (At-Large) introduced an amendment to restore language supporting the law that allows raising taxes beyond the limit.

The amendment passed. That means that if any state lawmaker looks to change the 2012 law, the school board’s lobbyists would be authorized to work against that effort.

The language “doesn’t have the power of law, it’s just the position of our board,” Valentine said.

Board chairman Segun Eubanks said there is no specific tax-increase plan on the table and he has not had any discussions with Baker about the matter. But “I do not believe we can significantly raise student performance without more resources,” he said.

Policy committee chairman Edward Burroughs III (District 8), who voted against the amendment, was the only board member to speak out against Baker’s proposal last spring. He said the board should not consider any tax raises until a full audit of the school system has been completed.

“Until we have the right accountability standards in place, more money alone is not going to propel us to where we need to be,” Burroughs said. “Our residents simply cannot afford higher property taxes.”

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