Prince George's County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan yesterday released a $530 million budget for 1980 that does not reduce taxes for most home-owners but makes unprecedented cuts in county services that Hogan says have been forced by a voter-approved limit on tax collections.
Under the budget for the year beginning July 1, a typical owner of a home that was assessed at $50,000 last year will pay $752 in county property taxes, $8 more than last year.
The increase will result despite the effects of TRIM, the county charter amendment passed last fall that limits the total amount of property taxes that the county can collect. This year, TRIM will lower the tax rate 27 cents, the largest reduction in the rate in at least 15 years, but homeowners' tax bills still will rise because of increases in assessments as a result of inflation in home values.
The proposed new tax rate woudl be $3.04 for each $100 of assessed value.
At the same time, TRIM means that the county has about $9 million less to spend on services than it would normally have, according to officials, and the growth in total county spending will only be 3.5 percent, despite an area inflation rate of 8 percent.
Under Hogan's proposed budget, which must be approved by the county council, Prince George's citizens will be served by 14 fewer elementary schools next year, and senior citizens will lose their regular bus service.
There will be 20 percent fewer new books in county libraries, 19 fewer football coaches in high schools, and no more high school ROTC programs.
Two planned branch libraries will not be built, 21 of 27 elementary school guidance counselors will be eliminated, and funds for nonprofit community programs for families, musicians and the visually handicapped, among others, will be cut off.
At the same time, county residents will pay more for adult education courses and films that they borrow for libraries, and may be charged new rates of up to$20 an hour for using county facilities. County hospital rates are also likely to increase.
Hogan's budget would increase spending for the police department, the fire department and the corrections department. Police officers will be allowed to increase from a level of 840 last December to 864 next year, and one-fourth of the police car pool will be replaced.
At the same time, however, Hogan cut $13 million out of the budget for education proposed by the school board, and proposed salary increases for county employes that union leaders say they will not accept.
The reductions, whcih Hogan says were mandated by the voters' approval of TRIM, will undoubtably be the focus of the most intense budget debate by the county council in years.
The council has the power to restore money cut out of departments and programs by Hogan, but must cut other programs in order to do so. The council cannot raise the total amount of money spent by the county.
Already, the debate has begun. Council member Parris N. Glendening, who chairs the council's fiscal policy committee, criticized the cuts in education and employe salaries, and charged that Hogan's budget is "a political document designed to produce confrontation."
According to council members, debate on the budget, by the council and by citizens who show up for public hearings, is likely to focus on four crucial areas:
Revenue estimates. The amount of money Hogan and the council can budget for each county agency depends on how much money Hogan's staff estimates the county will receive from taxes and other sources next year. In addition to the reduced funds from property taxes, Hogan says that the budget is also limited by a projected decline in the economy that will reduce the amounts that the county receives from investments and its share of income taxes and other fees.
But Glendening and other council members are already arguing that the revenue estimates are too low, and that Hogan should increase them.
Glendening said Friday that Hogan had "hidden" a "slush fund" of at least $10 million that could be included in the budget by deliberately underestimating tax and other benefits and by budgeting only $3 million of a projected surplus of $12 million from this year's budget. Hogan said that he needed the rest of the surplus to pay for unexpected expenses that will arise during the final months of this fiscal year.
The school budget. Hogan's cut, if upheld by the council, would be the largest amount sliced from a school budget in recent memory. Hogan has proposed cutting back on school administrators, eliminating most elementary guidance counselors and transfering school health aides to the health department. He has also assumed that the school board will vote to shut down 14 of 19 schools under consideration for closing.
Hogan's school budget would also cut back on supplies and repairs to equipment, and on funding for curriculum development.
Employe contracts. Hogan has included salary increases of 3 percent for all county unions, even though school employes have already negotiated 5 percent increases and eight other unions whose contracts expire this year are still negotiating. Union officials say they will not accept the 3 percent raises and have threatened strikes and other job actions. Hogan, in turn, has said that if raises go higher than 3 percent, he will be forced to lay off employes.
Grants to special county services. Even though these programs spend relatively little money and are small in comparison to county agencies, they have highly vocal constituencies. Hogan has eliminated funding for a number of community programs, such as the family services program and special music programs. In the past, the county council has restored such cuts.
Hogan said that the kind of budgeting TRIM forced this year cannot be maintained for many more years without disrupting essential services.
"Maybe we should keep TRIM, but ask the voters to factor in an inflation increase for revenues," Hogan suggested at a press conference last week. "If TRIM is still in effect in 20 years, the government would go out of business."
Of the $530 million in the budget, Hogan plans to spend $274 million, or 51 percent, on county schools; $41 million, or 7 percent, on police and fire protection; $61 million, or 11 percent, on Prince George's and Laurel hospitals; $19 million, or 3 percent, on public works and transportation, including Metro. About 5 percent, or $26 million, will go for debt service on county bonds.
The county will get $161 million, or 30 percent of its money, from property taxes; $52 million, or 9 percent, from state and federal aid; $85 million, or 16 percent, from local income, occupancy, filing fees, and other taxes; $11 million, or 2 percent, from state-shared taxes; $114 million, or 21 percent, in state and federal aid to education; and $60 million, or 11 percent, in hospital revenues.