Tag Archives: Rushern L. Baker III

Pr. George’s schools programs trimmed to fit scaled-back budget

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A divided Prince George’s County Board of Education adopted a downsized $1.8 billion budget Thursday night, cutting programs that would have been funded by a proposed property-tax increase rejected by the County Council.

Schools chief Kevin Maxwell presented a revised budget to the board last week after County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) failed to generate the support needed for his ambitious plan to raise the tax rate 15 percent and increase school spending by $133 million.

The council instead approved a smaller tax increase that would produce about a quarter of the funding Maxwell says he needs to expand programs and boost student achievement.

Maxwell’s latest plan was approved by the school board on a 7-to-3 vote, with two abstentions. It maintains existing programs but does not include the rapid expansion he had sought for several initiatives. These included universal pre-kindergarten, dual-enrollment in high school and college courses, talented and gifted programs, digital literacy and the hiring of parent-school liaisons.

In addition, teachers will not receive increased retention pay or stipends for national board certification. Arts and foreign language programs will also not spread to all county schools, and an effort to provide free breakfast to all students will not come to fruition. >>> See changes here >>>(bbe491_8d2b4f2cb1e043f991186593dc93bca5)

“This is our best recommendation of how we move forward,” Maxwell said.

Board Chair Segun Eubanks said he was “satisfied, given our limitations, that we made the best choices we could make.”

But the cuts infuriated some board members, ratcheting up a controversy about funding schools designed specifically for first- and second-generation immigrants.

The budget preserves funding for two international high schools that would cater to English-language learners who are struggling in traditional classes. One would operate at a separate Bladensburg facility and the other within Largo High School.

The NAACP has criticized the schools, calling the initiatives segregation. Immigrant advocacy organizations such as CASA of Maryland say such schools exist across the country and provide options for a challenged population. PGCPS is not performing well because the work has not been about the students’ success, but rather it is about adults and their political agenda. Ejecting several staff members well connected to Mr. Rushern Baker III and Dr. Kevin Maxwell to “eat” from students reserve fund is not the answer!

Report was compiled By Arelis R. Hernández of the Washington Post and Reform Sasscer Movement contributed.  

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Bitter budget battle in Prince George’s ends with Rushern Baker waving a white flag. He surrenders finally.

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By Arelis R. Hernández June 19 at 5:25 PM
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) announced Friday that he will accept the 2016 operating budget approved by the County Council and not challenge it in court, bringing an end to the most bitter battle he has waged with the council since taking office.

In a statement, Baker said he decided to put the interests of county residents “ahead of a lengthy and divisive legal process” surrounding a section of county law that he and the council interpreted differently.

The litigation would have fostered “uncertainty and disharmony,” the statement said.

The council rejected Baker’s proposal for a 15-percent hike in the property tax rate to generate more funds for public schools. Baker then vetoed parts of the budget passed by the council, demanding a tax rate hike of 11.45 percent. But the council overrode that veto and stuck with a 4-percent property tax rate hike — the first in Prince George’s in more than three decades — and a 1.5-cent increase in the park and planning tax.

Baker went on a countywide tour this spring to drum up support for his proposal to raise taxes dramatically to generate $133 million for public schools. He argued that better schools would boost home prices, attract new families and businesses and improve the county’s regional competitiveness.

But he failed to convince residents or win cooperation from lawmakers. The council passed an alternative budget that cut most of the Baker’s new initiatives and eliminated proposed furloughs and layoffs.

Baker then said that the county was barred by law from adjusting his proposed budget by more than 1 percent — a contention that council members said was ludicrous.

In his statement, Baker said the controversy over school funding was evidence that “we are very passionate about this place we call home.”

via Washington Post

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Bitter budget war could claim other casualties in Prince George’s County

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Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D). (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

June 17 at 9:29 PM

The budget war raging in Prince George’s County has exposed a bitter breach between Rushern L. Baker III and the nine-member County Council, after years of the council offering strong support to Baker’s ambitious initiatives.

Council members are frustrated by what they describe as Baker’s unilateral approach and have resolutely rejected his call for a major tax increase to generate new money for public schools. After a unanimous vote to override a budget veto Tuesday evening, Chairman Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) called Baker’s veiled threat to challenge the budget in court “self-destructive and self-defeating.”

The rift leaves Baker (D) without a willing partner to help him advance his agenda to overhaul schools, which he says is key to attracting new businesses, residents and wealth. And it threatens to distract from other major projects, including luring a new FBI headquarters to one of two sites in Prince George’s, building a new regional hospital and stimulating other growth that would narrow the economic gap between Prince George’s and its neighbors.

[Can a tax hike save a school system?]

“The county has made great strides the last four years,” said Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s). “The momentum forward has benefited us. . . . Antagonism doesn’t.”

Baker surprised the council in March by proposing a budget that would raise the property tax rate by 15 cents — from 96 cents per $100 of assessed value to $1.11 per $100 of assessed value — and pumping $133 million in additional revenue into the county’s poor-performing school system.

It would have been the first property tax increase in the county since 1978, when a voter-imposed tax cap took effect.

Baker said a 2012 school-funding provision gave the county the ability to raise taxes in spite of the cap and urged lawmakers to get on board. But they were loathe to add that much to residents’ already high tax burden.

The council ultimately voted to raise the tax rate by 4 cents, triggering the veto from Baker and a threat to challenge the budget in court.

[Budget war in Prince George’s]

The public spat is unusual for Baker and the council. Lawmakers forged a compromise with Baker when he pushed for ethics revisions shortly after taking office and backed his partial takeover of the school system in 2012 and his efforts to expedite the MGM casino project.

Many of those efforts, however, began with bills passed by the Maryland General Assembly, where Baker served as a delegate representing Prince George’s from 1994 to 2003 and was considered a rising political star.

 The council endorsed many of Baker’s other signature programs, including a $50 million economic development incentive fund and a Transforming Neighborhoods initiative that sets aside additional government resources for the county’s poorest communities.

The council and Baker worked in tandem to broker a deal for a new regional hospital center and to promote two sites — one in Greenbelt, the other in Landover — that are being considered to house the new FBI headquarters.

Baker’s winning streak ended abruptly in November, when voters overwhelmingly defeated an effort he had endorsed to weaken term limits for the county executive and council members.

Baker campaigned for officeholders to be able to seek a third term, pointing out that neighboring jurisdictions don’t have term limits and saying that more years in office are necessary in order to achieve ambitious goals.

But council members refused to lend their support, and voters rejected the idea.

Generating more revenue for schools through the tax increase was Baker’s next bold move. He told residents and business leaders that rehabilitating the education system would be the centerpiece of his legacy.

“We’ve done a lot of the easy stuff,” Baker said Wednesday. “When you’re going to have to ask people to dig in their pockets, you are going to have disagreements.”

Council members accused Baker of ambushing them without seeking their input.

When the council voted against Baker’s budget in May, council member Obie Patterson (D-Fort Washington) commented that he could not think of one previous Baker initiative “that I have not given him full support.

“But there comes a time when you can’t do it all, and there comes a time when you have to draw the line in the sand,” Patterson said as he cast his vote in favor of a scaled-back budget. “This is one of those times.”

Baker held news conferences in an attempt to generate support for his proposal, sparking complaints from lawmakers that he was talking at them, rather than engaging in constructive communication with them.

After each Baker appearance, the tension between him and the council seemed to increase, and lawmakers grew more frustrated.

Franklin and other council members said Baker was unwilling to negotiate a lesser tax increase. The administration countered that lawmakers had not come to them with an alternative.

“It really didn’t allow for . . . meaningful discussion,” said council member Mary A. Lehman (D-Laurel), who submitted an alternative school spending plan that Baker eventually discarded.

“He needs not take council members’ support for granted,” Lehman said of Baker. “You have to demonstrate you are willing to work with people, engage them and work through their concerns.”

Baker spokesman Scott Peterson dismissed questions about whether the budget dispute will affect future collaboration. “We are confident that the executive and legislative branch will continue to work together going forward,” Peterson said in a statement. “At the end of the day, we all want what is best for the County.”

Del. Alonzo Washington (D-Prince George’s) described the battle as a normal part of the legislative process, reflecting “differences in policy and approaches” between Baker and the council.

“The community as a whole and those interested in moving to the county need to understand that this is . . . what happens when you have checks and balances in government,” he said.

Washington Post – Lynh Bui contributed to this report.

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“But there comes a time when you can’t do it all, and there comes a time when you have to draw the line in the sand.” “This is one of those times.” – Council member Obie Patterson (D-Fort Washington)

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Prince George’s County citizenry can’t afford a 15% raise to keep Superintendent Maxwell in a chauffeur-driven, county-provided car. Start by stripping the school budget of these ridiculous items. Why should each homeowner pay $500 more a year so Dr. Maxwell can be driven to work when he makes $300,000 a year not to mention his $1 Million (yes million) signing bonus? Surely he can afford his own car. The list of hilarious items is so long and includes free coffee.

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Update: Budget war in Prince George’s: Council overrides Rushern Baker’s vetoes

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The council reconvened at 8:30 p.m., with Deni Taveras (D-Adelphi) absent, and voted 8 to 0 to kill each of Baker’s 32 line-item vetoes, restoring the budget they passed on May 28, 2015.

June 16 at 10:15 PM

The Prince George’s County Council voted Tuesday to override budget vetoes handed down by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, rejecting for the second time in three weeks a proposed double-digit increase in the property tax rate.

The decision illustrates a stark shift by the nine-member council, which has supported most of Baker’s major initiatives throughout his 4 1 /2 years in office.

It reflects concern among lawmakers about increasing the tax burden on the county’s residents, who already are taxed more than residents of neighboring jurisdictions and were hit hard by the recession and foreclosure crises. And it demonstrates skepticism of Baker’s theory that an infusion of money into the troubled public school system will catapult it from the bottom of state rankings to the top over the next five years.

Baker (D) said he vetoed parts of the council-approved budget for two reasons: Because he thinks more spending for schools is vital to the county’s future and because he thinks that the council acted illegally by trimming his budget request by more than 1 percent.

Council members say the second rationale is based on a misinterpretation of a 2006 law that addresses the council’s ability to adjust revenue projections — not budget appropriations.

Baker’s interpretation “is wrong and would unconstitutionally erode our system of checks and balances and give the county executive the near-unlimited power to raise taxes,” said Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro), the council’s chairman.

Baker waited until a 5 p.m. deadline Tuesday to send his vetoes to the council, long after lawmakers’ legislative session was scheduled to have ended.

The council reconvened at 8:30 p.m., with Deni Taveras (D-Adelphi) absent, and voted 8 to 0 to kill each of Baker’s 32 line-item vetoes, restoring the budget they passed on May 28.

The council’s overrides reinstate a 4-cent increase in the property tax rate. Baker had originally proposed a 15-cent increase, then floated an 11.45-cent increase on Monday.

Although the amount is significantly smaller than what Baker sought, it would be the first property tax increase in Prince George’s in nearly four decades — a blow to anti-tax activists who pushed through a tax cap in 1978 and have defended it ever since.

Baker circumvented the cap using a 2012 state law that allows rate increases in excess of statutory limitations if they are specifically designated to fund approved public school budgets. Although members of the council objected during weeks of heated public hearings, they ended up implicitly endorsing the approach by voting for the 4-cent increase.

Lawmakers also overrode Baker’s veto of a 1.5-cent increase in the Prince George’s park and planning tax.

What happens next is unclear. Citizens could go to court to challenge the county’s decision to raise property taxes.

And Baker said Monday that the council’s override could be vulnerable to legal challenge as well, based on his contention that county law prohibits the council from adjusting the budget up or down by more than 1 percent.

Franklin called Baker’s discussion of litigation “embarrassing and strange” for the county as well as “self destructive and self-defeating.”

“Hopefully, the county executive will not go down that road.”

If no one challenges the budget, the version approved by the council would take effect July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

That budget eliminates furloughs and layoffs that Baker proposed to deal with a revenue shortfall and provides money to shore up teacher pensions. But it does not fund any of the programs Baker and school chief Kevin Maxwell have proposed to try to remake the public school system.

Read more >>> It’s an official big mess in Prince George’s County

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Baker’s interpretation “is wrong and would unconstitutionally erode our system of checks and balances and give the county executive the near-unlimited power to raise taxes,” said Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro), the council’s chairman.

WRC_0000000010667624_1200x675_454237251635Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro), the council’s chairman called Baker’s discussion of litigation “embarrassing and strange” for the county as well as “self destructive and self-defeating.”

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Prince George’s County Exec. Vetoes Tax Increase for Parks

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County Executive Baker playing bad politics following the footsteps of his predesor promises veto power. According to Washington Post, the last time in 2003,  Jack Johnson county executive then and the Council adopted a budget that increased the M-NCPPC tax rate by 4.8 cents or 57 percent. Johnson vetoed the measure, calling it “unnecessary” at a time when “our school system is in need of major improvements.” Sound familiar?

For only the second time in his tenure, Prince George’s County executive Rushern L. Baker III said Monday he will use his veto power to reject the Council-backed tax increase for the government’s park and planning agency.

With one of the county’s newest recreational facilities serving as a backdrop in Oxon Hill, Baker said in a news conference he was “appalled” by the Council’s levying a 1.5-cent tax increase that Prince Georgians will pay for a park system that ranks among the best in the country. Meanwhile, the schools are among the lowest-performing in Maryland.

“Look at this facility…I am proud of what we have,” he said. But “it is not fiscally prudent to invest more dollars…It is not necessary. It is not practical, strategic or visionary.”

The Council adopted a budget last month that called for a smaller property tax increase (4-cents) than the one Baker endorsed (15-cents) to pay for an ambitious school reform package of academic programs, increased teacher pay and improved facilities.

Better schools is the missing element of the county executive’s agenda to raise the quality of life in Prince George’s while attracting new families and businesses to the suburb. But the plan was met with outrage from residents still crawling out from under a housing crisis that decimated household wealth.

Lawmakers adopted a slimmed-down budget, calling it a more “fiscally responsible” accounting of the county’s financial constraints. In total, taxpayers will see a 5.5-cent tax increase that Council Chair Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) says will help solve structural deficits and pay for obligatory teacher pension costs.

In the meantime, Franklin predicted the veto will be overridden by the council immediately.

>>> Read Mashington Post >>>Read Wusa9pgcpslogo_blue-blackPRINCE-large

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Pr. George’s Council approves 4% raise in Property taxes.

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A divided Prince George’s County Council passed a budget Thursday that would require a a four-percent increase in the property tax rate to generate revenue for public schools — far less money than proposed by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, but still the first property tax hike in the county since voters approved a tax cap 37 years ago.

In a meeting that started more than two hours later than scheduled, council members rejected Baker’s proposal to raise taxes by a whopping 15 percent, generating $133 million in new money for public schools.

They also refused to consider a compromise plan — put forward by Baker on Wednesday — that called for $65 million in new schools funding.

Instead, the council voted 6-to-3 in favor of a budget that would raise the tax rate by 4 percent, generating $34 million in new schools money.

In order to take effect, the proposed tax rate must be the subject of a public hearing and another council vote before the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

>>> Read more Washington Post.

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Prince George’s budget plan includes tax hike, layoffs and furloughs.

Controversial Proposal would help pay for education reform in Prince George’s County…

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Despite PG County’s already heavy tax burden, Mr. Rushern Baker III proposes real property, personal property and telecom tax increases against the governor Larry Hogan’s wishes not to increase taxes in Maryland. 

Facing rising costs and flat revenues, Prince George’s County is preparing to lay off over 100 employees and furlough 6,000 others, while asking county residents to tighten their belts in the form of increased property taxes to help pay for education reforms officials say are needed to move the school system forward.

“The proposed FY 2016 budget includes the financial resources necessary to support higher educational achievement,” County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said in a letter outlining his objectives in the $3.6 billion budget. “The outcome of this investment will be a county school system that will be most noted for rapidly improving its schools by implementing high quality educational programs and rigor for all students.”

Baker presented his budget to the Prince George’s County Council on Friday afternoon. The council must pass an approved budget by June 1.

The school board approved a $1.93 billion budget Feb. 26, challenging county government to meet their request for program expansions and improvements school system CEO Kevin Maxwell said are necessary to improve the system, including expansion of pre-kindergarten, arts education, digital literacy and peer teacher review.

To fund the $135.7 million increase over last year’s school budget, Baker’s chief budget officer Thomas Himler said the county is turning to a bill passed by the General Assembly, Chapter 6 of the 2012 Laws of Maryland. Chapter 6 allows counties to raise property taxes higher than the caps set in their charter, so long as those funds are used only for education.

To compensate for flat revenues and increasing costs of doing business, Baker is proposing layoffs for 110 county employees.

“We haven’t identified what those 110 positions are yet, that’s part of the next few months’ process,” Himler said.

In addition, all county employees paid through the General Fund — over 6,000 employees — will be required to take five days of furloughs, Himler said.

Himler said the layoffs and furloughs are expected to save the county $15 million.

“With revenues not coming in and us having higher expenditures, year after year, this budget was tough, and there were some tough decisions,” said Baker spokesman Scott Peterson.

The budget does include a $48 million increase for public safety, including 100 new police recruits and 35 new officers in the fire department.

Baker’s budget raises the county’s real property tax rate from $.96 to $1.11 per $100 of assessed value, and raises the personal property tax rate from $2.40 to $2.78 per $100 of assessed value. The rate increases are expected to generate $115.7 million, according to the budget proposal.

>>> Read more Gazette. 

Council2015Prince George’s County Council members

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