College Park Meeting on Proposed Tax Increases, Sat May 16

Sharing a notice I received about a joint meeting in College Park about the proposed tax increases
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Neighbors:

In lieu of our usual spring meeting, the West College Park, North College Park, Berwyn and Old Town Civic Associations are jointly hosting a meeting on:
SATURDAY, MAY 16th 9am – 11am at the City of College Park, Council Chambers.

The reason for this unusual meeting format is outlined below. This is a fairly lengthy email, but it affects you all, so please read through.

Proposed County Budget
As you may all know, the County budget this year has several elements that will impact us all – as residents, employees and students. The County Executive has proposed:

a $133 million increase in the school budget through a property tax increase of 16.4%
a telecommunications tax increase from 8% to 12%
a hotel tax increase from 5% to 7%
layoffs of 110 county employees
five day furloughs for 6000 county employees

TRIM Bypass
The property tax increase has been widely debated because it bypasses TRIM, the property tax rate cap that was instituted through a citizen referendum and has been in effect in Prince George’s County since 1978. This bypass of TRIM was made possible by a 2012 bill in the State legislature that allowed counties to circumvent their tax rate caps if the additional monies raised is used for education. In the Prince George’s delegation, only Dels. Peña-Melnyk and Frush voted against the 2012 legislation.

Implications of Property Tax Hike

For a $300,000 home, the proposed property tax rate hike would increase property taxes by $450 annually.
Once per-student school expenditure is increased, state law says that it cannot be decreased in future years – this is called “maintenance of effort”.
Some Prince George’s state legislators said their vote for the 2012 legislation was only if an economic downturn left the county unable to meet maintenance of effort, but the bill language is broad and the proposed county budget is legal.
The School Board has proposed a strategic plan that requires a large increase in school spending.
Section 813 of the County Charter requires tax increases to be put to a voter referendum. While the 2012 state legislation allows the county council to vote on the proposed budget, many residents feel this violates the county charter and the council should maintain the integrity of the charter by sending the proposals to a referendum.
Others maintain that no tax increase will pass a voter referendum which is why the state loophole was created to address education needs.
Prince George’s property tax rate is currently the second highest in the state – below only Baltimore City. Unlike the income tax, which could be scaled with income in a progressive fashion, property tax is regressive and disproportionately affects seniors who may have bought homes when prices were much lower.

Bring your questions to the meeting.
How much does Prince George’s spend per student and how does this compare to neighboring counties?
Where does our education funding come from? (local, state, federal)
How much do we pay teachers compared to other counties?
What is the income and wealth of the average Prince Georgian compared to neighboring counties?
What are the educational needs of the student population in Prince George’s and how well is the County able to meet those needs?

These and many other facts, strategies and implications will be discussed at this meeting. The County Council will vote on the budget at the end of May.

Meeting Speakers
We expect the following speakers at this meeting:

Mr. John Pfister, Director, Budget & Management Services, Prince George’s County Schools
Dr. Segun Eubanks, Chair, Prince George’s Board of Education (confirmation awaited)
Speaker from County Executive Office (confirmation awaited)
Mr. Tom Dernoga (former county council member and citizen activist)

Please take the time to attend this meeting that addresses subjects that will affect your future. Free parking available at City Hall. This meeting is not restricted to College Park residents, so please feel free to forward this to your friends in neighboring areas.

Suchitra Balachandrn
President, WCPCA

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