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County Executive's FY15 budget includes increases for education

Last week, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker III introduced his capital and operating budgets for fiscal year 2015, which total $3.41 billion and include increased funds for education while reducing operational costs in other departments.

The overall budget is 4.4 percent higher than in fiscal year 2014.

"Although the county continues to face economic challenges, we remain committed to building upon the momentum of the past three years by making key strategic investments in critical priorities, while at the same time adhering to sound fiscal management practices which have yielded promising and steady progress," Baker said of his budget proposal. "Once again we have made some tough decisions, and we addressed them by thinking differently, setting priorities and by focusing on efficiency and service delivery. There is more interest in Prince George's County than ever before and I am confident that by focusing on key investments areas, our great county will continue to rebound and reach greater heights.

To balance the budget, the county's Office of Management and Budget got rid of a $111 million deficit by cutting operational spending across government agencies. The agencies were clustered into four groups – public safety, health and human services, public safety and government operations – and together set spending priorities, identified duplicate programs that could be merged and eliminated vacant positions.

The FY15 budget does not include any furloughs or layoffs of county employees.

Notable spending in the budget includes increases in education and public safety funding.

The budget provides $1.8 billion to the Board of Education, an increase of $106 million, or 6 percent, over last year, as well as $104 million for Prince George's County Community College and $27 million for the library system.

The county's police department will receive funds for three new recruiting classes, totaling 150 police officers, as well $3 million in additional overtime funds. The budget also increases the fire department by 35 new recruits and the Department of Corrections by 25 correctional officers.

Other highlights include $15 million for the Dimensions Health system, $208 million for a new regional medical center in Largo and funding to support county homeless shelters and domestic violence programs.

And, since the county began collecting money that is earmarked for a watershed restoration fund, it will have $7 million in additional spending money for storm water remediation projects – an 83 percent increase over the fiscal year 2014 budget.

The budget goes next to the County Council for a vote. The council must approve a budget by June 1.

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