The Prince George's County Planning Board has proposed a budget for next year that eliminates 83 positions, substantially reduces the hours when parks and community centers will be open and cuts back many summer programs, including a day camp for underpriviledged youngsters.
The $25.8 million budget proposal is $500,000 less than the current budget and reflects the tight financial constraints imposed on the county by its TRIM charter amendment that limits tax collections, board chairman John Burcham Jr. said yesterday.
Although the planning board is not legally bound by TRIM because of its independent taxing authority as part of the regional Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Burcham said the board agreed to a request by county government officials "to act within the spirit of TRIM and scale back where we could."
He said the board "looked for slop, for inefficiently and fat" in preparing the budget. However, he said, "If we get much leaner, some of the facilities will begin to deteriorate" and needed services will be affected.
More than a year after county voter's approved TRIM, the only such tax-limiting measure in the area, branches of government in Prince George's are preparing stringent budgets for next year that slash postions and programs. Schools officials recently released a preliminary budget that cut 535 teaching and staff positions, elminiates summer school for elementary students and reduces the amount of money available for books.
This year, the planning board was forced to cut back several recreational programs, including summer playground activities and senior citizen services. It also decided to reduce the number of park police.
The package proposed for next year, which Burcham described as far more stringent, will affect both planning and recreational services.
Board officials said that the county's 26 community centers, which currently operate seven days a week, will remain open only five days each week. The two regional parks in Prince George's, which are also open every day, will close once a week next year.
Camp Diwana, a free day camp operated by the planning board for underpriviledged children in the county, will be reduced next year from eight to six weeks. The cutback will eliminate places for 100 youngsters, board staff members said yesterday. The board is also considering charging $5 for each who attends the program.
The proposed budget also reduces the number of summer playgrounds available to the nearly 25,000 county youngsters who use them each year. In addition, staff members said, the summer playground program will no longer include field trips to swimming pools, bowling alleys and parks because of the expense involved in providing chartered bus transportation.
All holiday recreational programs that offer supervised activities and sports in public school gymnasiums will be eliminated next year, according to planning board officials.
The board also decided to reduce the amount of money available for new acquisitions and maintenance of facilities in the county's neighborhood parks. "It means the grass will grow a lot longer and there will be fewer people around to keep things in shape," one staff member said.
The 83 staff cuts approved by the board will not result in any layoffs, Burcham said, but will occur through attrition. Burcham said that the board has set aside the equivalent of a 5 percent cost-of-living pay increase for employes. The larger bicounty commission that the planning board is a part of has to approve the cost-of-living increase before it is made final.