Prince George's County School Superintendent Edward J. Feeney said yesterday that budget cuts proposed by County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan would force the layoff of hundreds of teachers, virtually eliminate assistant principals in junior and senior high schools, remove librarians and health aides from elementary schools, and deprive the county's 6,000 teachers of part of a negotiated pay raise.
Unlike in previous years, when the Democratic county council responded to pressure from parents and teachers and restored much of the cuts suggested by Republican Hogan, this year the voter-imposed tax ceiling (TRIM) allows no room for growth.
County Council Chairman Gerrard T. McDonough, in a meeting with leaders of unionized county employes and school administrators Wednesday, said the council must find about $7 million to fund the contractual obligations to county police, fire and teachers--exclusive of program cuts in the school budget.
"The council has always adhered to the principle of funding negotiatied agreements," McDonough said yesterday, "but there is no way we will be able to pull off what we did in the past. We're going to loose programs this year. And it is because of TRIM."
After cutting the property tax rate for two consecutive years, Hogan proposed increasing it for the coming year to the maximum permitted under the TRIM charter amendment, which limits revenue from real estate taxes to the 1979 level of $143 million.
The teachers are seeking to protect cost-of-living increases negotiated last year, but Hogan's proposal would limit their increase to the 4 percent raise he proposed for all county workers. Reducing the teachers' pay raise would save the county $7.8 million.
"I am not prepared to renegotiate," said teachers union president John Sisson. "It the contract is the last piece of dignity that teachers in Prince George's County have to hold on to."
When Hogan unveiled the $519.7 million budget two weeks ago, he proposed cutting the schools' request by $7.3 million, while adding 50 additional police officers, 25 firefighters, 11 emergency technicians and 35 jail guards.
Hogan, who is seeking his party's nomination for the U. S. Senate, defended cutting the schools' request, saying, "if you're asking me if I put a higher priority on crime than on education, the answer is 'yes.'"
Even if the council goes along with with Hogan's proposal to reduce the school budget from $337 million to $301 million, the 116,000-pupil system will get 58 percent of the total county budget.
School spokesman Brian J. Porter said an analysis of the Hogan budget found that the schools would have to eliminate 81 of 93 secondary school vice principals, leaving 12 to be distributed among 55 middle, junior high and senior high schools.
"Vice principals in secondary schools are the ones primarily responsible for discipline in the schools. The reductions for schools that have large numbers of children prompts the worst kind of nightmares," Porter said.
"You can kiss discipline goodbye," said Sisson. "I just hope the county is prepared to provide additional police protection."
The school system study said Hogan's proposal would result in the loss of 744 employes in addition to the 324 anticipated in the superintendent's budget.
County Budget Director Robert Duncan, who advised Hogan on the budget cuts, said he was not aware of the school systems analysis, but said its projections were similar to what he proposed. Duncan said it was his belief that the reduced budget would still permit a second administrator in every secondary school.
Duncan said he recommended the cuts "not as an educator but as a budget director." He said he could not say whether the positions to be eliminated represented "fat" in the school system, as Hogan has often charged.
"Are they fat in the context of Fairfax and Montgomery? Hell, no. Are they fat compared to Baltimore City? Yes," Duncan said, adding "I suspect that Prince George's is somewhere in the middle."
The actual number of layoffs would depend on the turnover in the school system.
"Who knows with the economy the way it is? I would certainly suspect that if the board intends to fully fund the (teacher) contract, it would not surprise me if there are layoffs . . . and more than two or three.
"The tradeoff to be made in this government this year is pay versus people," Duncan said.