PGCPS Board battles over funding, possible tax hikes

The Prince George’s County Board of Education meets on June 25 to discuss the budget for fiscal year 2016. The budget passed with seven ayes, three abstentions, and two nos.The Prince George’s County Board of Education supports maintaining current law, which authorizes the county governing body to set a property tax rate higher than authorized in the charter, or collect more property tax revenues than authorized under the charter, for the sole purpose of funding the approved budget of the county board of education,” the section reads.

UPPER MARLBORO – Last budget season Prince George’s County Board of Education member Edward Burroughs II found out about possible tax increases through the news. This year, he doesn’t want any surprises.

To combat any unwanted tax hikes for members of the county, Burroughs, along with members of the board of education policy, legal and legislative committee, struck language from the board’s legislative platform in support of a tax hike.

“The Prince George’s County Board of Education supports maintaining current law, which authorizes the county governing body to set a property tax rate higher than authorized in the charter, or collect more property tax revenues than authorized under the charter, for the sole purpose of funding the approved budget of the county board of education,” the section reads.

At the board meeting on Nov. 12, Monique Davis, who was acting on behalf of Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell, said Maxwell is not in support of the language cut.

“These edits go beyond what Dr. Maxwell and his staff had originally recommended,” she said. “Dr. Maxwell is fine will all the edits with exception of the striking of the paragraph on page five.”

Davis said Maxwell believes these edits will put the board in opposition to many school boards throughout the state and would take away a “future tool for funding public education” in the county.

“All this language does is advocate the current law passed in 2012, remain in place,” she said.

However, Burroughs said the county residents spoke “loud and clear” last year against raising taxes in the county.

“We do not believe the county executive should have the authority, even with the county council’s approval, to raise property takes,” he said. “We have the highest foreclosure rate in the entire region. Families in this region are struggling, living paycheck to paycheck. Raising property taxes for the purpose of education alone isn’t going to move our district forward.”

Burroughs said without an intense internal evaluation of the current programs and their use of funds, he doesn’t think the school board or county should be asking the residents to pay more for education.

“Before we go to the public and ask them to increase property taxes, we need to evaluate our current programs to make sure we are maximizing our current resources. Until that happens, I don’t think we should have the audacity to go to the public to increase property taxes,” he said.

At the same time, board member Carolyn Boston said eliminating the text would be counterproductive to what the board and school system are trying to do.

“It’s not that we’re saying, ‘yes we want to go out here and have the county executive raise taxes to a certain amount.’ What we’re saying is that we support them in however way they take to raise money to help support the process of education of our kids,” Boston said.

Student board member Ava Perry agreed.

“If we really need money for things like (Advanced Placement) expansion, prekindergarten expansion, stuff that costs money as you want to expand, I think it’s important that we do keep this an option,” she said.

Curtis Valentine, who made the motion to reinstate the struck-through language, said by keeping the boards support, they continue to put the responsibility on the county council to listen to their constituents and make budget decisions.

“I would expect that to not change in the future in the event that the community is not in support of increasing taxes,” he said.

The amendment to the legislative platform passed nine votes to three, with only Burroughs, Zabrina Epps and Verjeana Jacobs opposing.

Jacobs said no matter what the board decided, for or against, the law is the law.

“The current law says the county council has that authority. Now, whether people agree that’s a violation of citizens rights is, that’s a whole other story,” she said.

Via Prince George’s County sentinel 

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