As other Prince George's County officials appear to be scrambling to find ways to hold the line on taxes, the County Planning Board has approved a proposed $18.1 million parks and recreation budget that would raise the property tax rate by 4.3 cents.
In a surprise move last night, the board reversed an earlier decision to keep the county's parks and recreation tax rate at the current 39.37 cents per $100 of assessed valuation while severely curtailing services.
"We have to remember it's our duty to send to the County Council a budget that would deliver the services the citizens of Prince George's County are entitled to, [tax] increase or not," declared board member Ann Hopper.
"We'll be run out of town on a rail," said board Chairman Raymond La-Placa, who cast the only dissenting vote in the 3-to-1 decision.
Hopper stressed that the recent approval by county voters of the so-called TRIM charter amendment which restricts the county's ability to collect property taxes above the 1979 level does not legally restrict the parks and recreation tax.
The budget now goes to the council and the county executive, who have the power to cut it and the tax rate it calls for.
As it stands, the budget would allow the Parks and Recreation Department to maintain the same programs it now offers, including special programs for the handicapped and all arts programs, while adding several more.
Funds for several projects, including a day camp for teen-agers with learning disabilities, hiring of five new park police officers and maintenance of ballfields and parks, were added after several hours of debate.