The Prince George's County has adopted a budget recommendation that would keep the country's library budget at its current $6.8 million and mandate that all libraries remain open. Library officials had previously indicated that a status quo budget would force them to either close several branches or cut hours for all libraries.
In a unanimous work session vote that is tantamound to final approval, the Council directed the library board to come up with new ways to meet the county executive's budget request without closing libraries.
Charles W. White, a member of the library board, said. "We'll do everything humanly possible. But I can't guarantee anything," referring to possible branch closings. The library board makes the final decisions on how funding cuts will be made within the libary system.
William Gordon, director of the library system, came to the Council with three proposals. One requested an increase in the budget to $7,020,394 by using state funds that would automatically prevent any library closings. The other two would maintain the $6.8 million budget restriction but close either two or six library branches and severely cut hours in the rest.
Council members were not happy with Gordon's proposals. Council member Parris M. Glendening said, "Proposals and counter-proposals are fine, if we were open-ended for final consideration. But we just don't have the time."
Council member Frank P. Casula added, "They've just got to live with the $6.8 million. We can't expand it."
Gordon, who has only been at his new job as director for two weeks, said the board probably will try to keep all the branches open, but reduce the number of operational hours. Some libraries will be closed an extra day, he said, and there will have to a reduction of about 35 staff members. Currently, there are 22 vacancies in the library system as a result of a hiring freeze imposed in December. Gordon expects the rest of the staff reduction to occur by attrition.
The County Council already has trimmed $641,291 from county executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr.'s $418.7 million budget. Another $2.7 million in cuts is possible by the final approval date. The largest cut would come as a result of a $2 million savings by finding private investors for the new Laurel hospital. The hospital is already built but needs initital operating expenses before it can open.
Funds saved from the proposed budget cut could help either maintain or lower the current property tax rate, if no shortfall in funds occurs due to a reduction in state aid to education.
The Council already has trimmed $2.5 million from the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission by making cuts in summer employment, curtailing hours at community centers and reducing certain planning projects in an effort to keep the parks open and put more money into new park construction.
A $5.4 million Council cut from the combined operating and capital budgets of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission may result in an 8 cent reduction in the 16-cent proposed rate increase for water and sewer use. The budget cuts have been agreed upon by the Montgomery County Council before final approval.
The Council also requested the county executive to "get moving on the Bowie Industrial Park, and get it into revenue-producing status."
The Bowie Industrial Park is 1,221 acres of conuty-owned land off Rte. 301. The county wants to turn the land into an area for manufacuring, storage, industrial and commercial use.
The Council is eager to see some development of the property begin as payments for water and sewage service mount. The industrial park is a county effort to bring in at least 1,800 jobs, many in the upper-income levels, to the area.