The budgetary crunch triggered by Prince George's Country's new revenue-limiting TRIM charter amendment exploded into the open last night as the country school board refused a request by County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan that it submit a list of more than $19 million in possible cuts in their $270 million preliminary budget for next year.
Hogan has said that the school budget cannot be allowed a large increase under TRIM, which froze county revenues at this year's level. He asked the board in a letter to suggest programs that could be cut in order to reduce next year's school budget to 95 percent of last year's budget, not counting employe cost-of-living increases now being negotiated.
The school board members were infuriated by Hogan's request, and what they saw as its implications. "We are building this budget on a zero base and that's how we should send it over to the county executive," said board president Norman H. Saunders. "If they want to cut it, let them cut it."
"We can't show the country executive where to cut it one percent or even one-half percent because that cutting is what we've already done and what we're doing," Saunders said.
"If we answered this," said board member. A. James Golato, "we would be admitting that we haven't gone as far as we can on this budget. And can you imagine sending over a list of cuts and not having total confidence that they would all be made?"
The school board is currently holding public work sessons on its budget, and has not yet even voted to approve it. After the board approves the budget later this month, it will be sent to Hogan, who with the county council has the authority to set the final budgetary figure for the schools. The school board budget usually makes up about 60 percent of the annual county budget.
The board decided last night to send Hogan a letter saying that in view of TRIM it already is preparing an austere budget and that, in Golator's words, "we can't operate this way with the county."
Told of the board's response, Hogan also reacted sharply. "Fine," he said last night, "if that's te kind of game they want to play, we'll just take this to the public."
"The voters of Prince George's County, by a three-to-one margin, passed a limit on spending in this county," Hogan said, referring to TRIM. "They must also come under that mandate. We're just going to have to cut the budget and they're going to have to realize that."
Hogan said that he had not yet set a figure for the school board budget and that his request did not represent cuts that he intended to force the board to make.
He said the question was put in an effort to get the board to conform to the budgeting system of other country departments that annually submit budgets representing rates of increase and decrease in programs.
"We were just trying to get them to march to the same orders as the other country departments," Hogan said.