School spending questioned as Prince George’s OKs $2.7B budget -- Gazette.Net


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The Prince George’s County Council reduced proposed funding for the school system in the next fiscal year over continuing questions regarding how the money is being spent.

The County Council approved May 30 a $2.7 billion county budget for fiscal 2014 that shifted $10.8 million that County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) had submitted in the proposed budget for the school system. Instead, the money will be used for various other county items, such as foregoing county staff furloughs.

The council said it wanted to await results from a county-commissioned audit of the school system before giving the money to it, said Council Chairwoman Andrea Harrison (D-Dist. 5) of Springdale.

“The council believes the prudent course of action is to defer such allocations until the results of the planned audit findings are presented and considered,” she said.

The audit is in its early stages and is expected to be completed next year, said Thomas Himler, the county’s deputy chief administrative officer for budget finance and administration.

School board member Verjeana Jacobs (Dist. 5) said removing the funding was ill-advised.

“Every dime matters when you’re talking about providing services to kids,” she said.

The county will be providing about $1.68 billion to the county school system, an increase of about $30 million from the amount the school system received in the current fiscal year, according to county documents.

With the removal of the funds, school system staff will have to draft a new reconciled budget by the end of June, Jacobs said. The $10.8 million would have been additional money for the school system to use in various programs as necessary, Himler said.

“We’re going to do what we can to do to make the best use of funds,” Jacobs said.

By withholding the $10.8 million from the school system, the council was able to prevent furloughs for county staff. Harrison said the county would consider providing additional money for the school system based on the results of the audit.

In addition to adjusting school system funding, the council also nixed a proposed $800,000 cut to the county library system and instead provided an additional $2.5 million in funding to the system. About $500,000 will be used to open three library branches, said Kathleen Teaze, director of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System. The libraries that will be opened have yet to be determined, she said. Also, $500,000 will be spent to replace aging computers in the library system, and $1.5 million will go toward a combination of other investments in the system, such as buying new materials or for pay increases for the roughly 330 library system employees, Teaze said.

“I’m very grateful that not only our public but everyone involved took the time to understand what we do and how important our public libraries are in our communities,” Teaze said.

amccombs@gazette.net