Prince George's County considers itself "well equipped" to deal with federal budget cuts, even though about 40 percent of the county's operating funds come from state and federal money.
With more than 665,000 residents, the county expects to receive about $13.3 million less in federal funds this fiscal year than the $90.6 million it received during fiscal 1981. About two-thirds of last year's budget was earmarked for individual benefit programs for the elderly, short-term employed and needy families.
The county soon will begin ranking all the programs supported by federal money and intends to phase out the low-priority services.
Republican County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan strongly supports Reagan's economic recovery program, according to his office, and hopes the budget cuts will curb inflation and the high tax burden. Hogan declined to be interviewed about his plans for coping with the cuts, but his office said he was paying particular concern to the adverse affects on subway construction, ongoing county development and educational programs.
The county's ability to deal with the cuts will be restricted by its own taxing limitations under TRIM, the statewide Tax Reform Initiative that has frozen property taxes in Prince George's at the 1979 level. This, in effect, puts a ceiling on the source from which the county draws a third of its revenues.
Unlike other jurisdictions, Prince George's has not relied heavily on federal job training and community development funds to provide essential government services. For example, the number of Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) employes performing county work was cut to 70 from 400 as of March. The county budget office, in a special federal assistance report, also noted that Prince George's is now paying for most of the federally sustained grant programs that proved successful.
But Council President Parris Glendening says the total amount of money handed out under the block grants will be about 80 percent less than what the state and the localities received under the old system. The new block grant system trimmed the federal regulations governing use of the money from 380 pages to six--"which was good," he said--but it left the aged, handicapped, the poor and Metro lovers all worried about cuts in programs.
"We do not have the resources to pick up the costs in the localities," Glendening said. He called the Metro situation "very, very alarming" especially for people in Greenbelt who fear the subway line won't be completed to their area.
"We've even advanced the schedule for digging on the theory that if we have a bunch of holes in the ground out there, they'll have to finish the project," Glendening said. The county, he added, also is worried that traffic congestion, particularly around the $500 million worth of office buildings going up at the intersection of Route 50 and the Beltway near New Carrollton, will slow development unless the highway access is improved.
Glendening and others would like to modify the TRIM tax ceiling to allow the county to tax new commercial growth. He said some tax increases would not jeopardize future development "because D.C., Fairfax and other areas have already priced themselves out of the market."