Prince George’s County, Maryland’s new budget reflects a focus on education and health with less money budgeted for police and public safety.
"The conscience of this budget really is to focus on people," Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said.
She said the county’s $4.6 billion budget for fiscal year 2022 sends a clear message.
“I have long said that economic development is great but human development is our aim, and so this budget, I think, speaks to our real interest in really building the people of this county," she said.
The Board of Education is getting a $64.4 million increase, its highest in recent history. That money is expected to go to teacher salary increases and new school construction.
“We have a very deserving CEO, school system,” Alsobrooks said. “They worked really hard during this pandemic, and we trust that they can well use what we've sent there, but you're right, it's a significant part of our budget — 62% of the county’s budget does support education."
There's also an increase in health funding with an emphasis on mental health resources.
“This budget gave us an opportunity to address many of the disparities and the inequities that were unearthed in this pandemic,” Alsobrooks said. “And so we've made major investments in building the health infrastructure of the county that had been underfunded for decades."
But public safety saw major decreases: 44.2 million for the sheriff's department and $12.8 million for the police department. Prince George's County police is down almost 400 officers from what it authorized to have, according to the police union. The department can't find enough recruits to replace the officers it loses.
The county executive said while other parts of government now have that public safety money, it's not a defunding of police.
“We’re tending to the needs of our residents, but we also, I want our residents to know, when you call the police and want them to respond, they will be there ready to respond. They will have the funding they need, the training they need, to be able to respond," Alsobrooks said.
The Prince George’s County Council passed the budget this week. It takes effect July 1. Police agencies across the country are experiencing problems with recruitment. There are half a million dollars dedicated to that effort in the county's budget, and it's also a focus for the new police chief.