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Raises, furlough days in proposed Prince George's County 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 afternon.

The budget, which is a $20 million increase over fiscal 2013's plan, 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.

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 employee unions and expects the raises to cost the county about $18 million.

Baker is looking to save money by offering 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 library department by reducing the number of managers. Almost every one of the county's 19 library branches currently has a manager - under the new plan, up to seven regional managers will oversee the system. That, with other measures like a DVD-buying moratorium, would save the department $820,000.

The Health Department would lose $3.7 million from the county's general fund, though some employees are being moved to other departments. Other positions would now 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 repairs and resurfacing projects. The remaining $4.5 million would be earmarked for acquisition and demolition of foreclosures. With that money, Himler said, the county could bulldoze as many as 150 houses.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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