Monday, December 09, 2013 6:11 AM
Published on: Friday, February 08, 2013
By Tauren Dyson
A Prince George’s County budget hearing hosted by County Executive Rushern Baker left many of the more than 70 attendees disheartened after his presentation. Some argued for widened roads and others pleaded for libraries to be spared from budget cuts, but in the end the news was not inspiring.
“This will be difficult,” Baker said. “Unfortunately, there will not be any department that will be spared.”
Baker’s goal for the upcoming fiscal year is to fill a $152 million hole in the county budget.
“Unfortunately, our revenues have been relatively flat for the last few years,” Baker said. “Our deficit is due to a slow rebounding residential real estate market.”
Between 2008 and 2012, the operating budget for the county dropped to just over $6 million, which represented a 24 percent plunge. The total county budget for that four-year period only dropped 1 percent to just over $2.6 billion.
Throughout the night, a strong contingent of Prince George’s County Memorial Library representatives, who were also members of the United Food and Commercial Workers local 1994 union, voiced their concerns over impending cuts that will soon hit the county.
“A great library provides,” said Dottie Crecelius, Friends of the Baden Library president. “It is enmeshed in the lives of a community.”
Crecelius, along with more than 40 others, held up signs for television cameras that read “Save Our Libraries” in anticipation of 5-percent across-the-board cuts to all departments within the county government.
Prince George’s County Memorial Public Library System representatives said those cuts would have an adverse effect on county libraries, which currently receive less than 1 percent funding from the total county budget, according to library representatives.
“In the past six years, our budget has been cut 24 percent, total,” said Barbara Simon, Friends of Prince George’s Library president. She anticipates that the 5 percent number seems low and that the cuts could be as high as 14 percent for county libraries.
While she is not an employee of the county library system, she has held her post with the FPGL for 30 years, and her husband, Tom Simon, was a 34-year employee in the system.
As two county residents who have dedicated their lives to working with and advocating for the library system, their message was clear Thursday night.
“Rushern Baker needs to set his priorities and one of them needs to be the libraries,” Simon said.