Prince George's workers would face 5-day furloughs under Rushern Baker's budget

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Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly,Prince Georges County

Prince George's County government employees would be furloughed five days next fiscal year under the proposed $3.2 billion budget that County Executive Rushern Baker announced Thursday afternoon.

The proposal, which represents a $20 million increase over the current budget, includes increases in education and public safety spending along with cuts to the health and library departments. Baker was facing a $152 million budget gap.

"We're just disappointed in the idea that this seems to be the route that they want to take, especially after the county executive swore he would never furlough police and fire [employees]," said Vince Canales, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89. He added that the union would look into other cost-saving measures to offer as an alternative.

Despite the furlough days, county employees would average a 2 percent raise thanks to planned wage increases, according to Baker's budget chief, Thomas Himler. The county is negotiating with all 10 of its employee unions and expects the raises to cost the county about $18 million.

Baker is looking to save money by offering employees incentives to retire. Employees who qualify would be offered $1,000 for every year they worked for the county to retire between May 1 and July 1.

"Our goal is to be able to get 200 positions net that we won't replace in fiscal year 2014," Himler said. "That equates to about $19 million in savings annually."

Baker plans to scale back the county's library department by reducing the number of managers. Almost every one of the county's 19 library branches has a manager; under the new plan, up to seven regional managers will oversee the system. That, plus other measures including a moratorium on DVD purchases, would save the department $820,000.

The Health Department would lose $3.7 million from the county's general fund, but some of its employees are being moved to other departments. Other positions would be funded by grants, while some would be cut as the department pares back.

Baker is planning to spend $11 million on the county's Economic Development Incentive Fund -- the same as last year -- and $16 million on the Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative, which addresses housing, education and public safety in areas where violent crime rates are highest.

Of that $16 million, half would go to schools and $3.5 million would go toward road repair and resurfacing. The remaining $4.5 million would be earmarked for acquisition and demolition of foreclosed properties. With that money, Himler said, the county could bulldoze as many as 150 houses.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner