The Prince George's County Council approved a $605.1 million county spending plan yesterday that includes $15 million in new money for the financially strapped county school system and nearly $400,000 to hire 10 new police officers.
Under the newly approved budget, property owners living in the county's unincorporated areas will be paying taxes at a rate of $2.40 per $100 assessed value, the maximum tax rate that can be charged under the limitations of TRIM (Tax Reform Initiative by Marylanders), the county's revenue-limiting charter amendment.
But tax bills are expected to be higher than last year because of increasing assessments.
Under the budget, the owner of an $82,000 home -- roughly the county-wide average -- would pay $33 more in taxes for a total of $825.
In approving the new budget, the council added $4 million to the budget proposed by County Executive Parris Glendening in late March, including an extra $1 million for the school system.
County officials said part of the increases was derived from higher-than-anticipated revenue estimates for the fiscal year that will begin in July.
Council chairman William B. Amonett and Glendening hailed the unanimous passing of the budget as the culmination of a remarkably smooth and cooperative process between the two branches of government.
Glendening is expected to sign the revised budget by next week.
"We now have a much better budget than was originally submitted," said council member James Herl.
"We finally put our money where our mouth is."
The $1 million increase in school funds is slated to go toward hiring 20 new teachers, 12 media specialists and to pay for new instructional supplies and a salary increase for home and hospital teachers.
The total school budget will be $349 million; school officials had sought $363 million.
School spokesman Brian J. Porter said that he is "very pleased" at the council's addition of the extra money, but cautioned that there will still not be enough money to meet all of the school department's needs.
"We have a long way to go before recovering from the budget reductions of years past," Porter said.
The Board of Education has also requested an added $3.1 million from Glendening to pay for an ambitious magnet school desegregation plan scheduled to go into effect in September.
The council's budget action exceeded by $2.5 million the available revenues that had been identified by county budget officials.
But in a letter to the council, Glendening said he would find the funds necessary to pay for a variety of increases in several government departments.
Those council-mandated increases include: $300,000 for Prince George's Community College. $302,000 to the fire department to pay for a new paramedic unit and the full-year hiring of 10 new firefighters. $200,000 for employment training for the disabled. $20,000 for a county Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
In its budget deliberations, the council also devised a new policy which will in effect delay more than 50 projects proposed by Glendening that he expected to be funded through future revenues.
The council decided that those projects, which are mostly road construction projects in planned business parks and other developments including some planned for the Bay of the Americas development near Oxon Hill and the Konterra minicity, will not be included in the county's capital improvement program until funds can be budgeted for them.
The planned expenditures outlined for those improvements were reduced by the deferment from $207 million to about $10 million in the county's ambitious six-year capital planning document.
"I'm a great believer . . . that unless public facilities are in there we shouldn't go on with any further development," said council member Frank Casula.
Casula's district includes one of the projects, the Intercounty Connector highway planned to run between Montgomery and Prince George's counties near I-95.
That road is one of the roads Konterra developers have said is necessary for the large-scale development.