The budget director for Prince George's County on Tuesday night said that the planning uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic "is staggering" as he and the county council unveiled a projected 16% decrease in revenues for fiscal year 2022.

During a virtual town hall meeting, Stanley A. Earley, the director of The Office of Management and Budget for Prince George’s County, made those remarks as his department estimated that the expenditures for the operating budget for the county for fiscal year 2022 will be about $3.778 billion, representing a 15% decrease in expenditures from the approved operating budget for fiscal year 2021. The revenue is projected to drop to about $3.729 billion, a decrease of about $756 million.

Earley attributes the loss in revenue to changes in laws due to COVID-19, particularly at the state level in regards to certain restrictions that were once put in place including the closing of indoor dining and other local businesses. “It is affecting our revenues in ways that are frankly hard to predict,” Earley said.

“We know a lot of the money we are getting this year will hit us in a negative way in 2022. While we are still looking, there is still so much uncertainty, that frankly, it is staggering,” Earley added.

County council chair Calvin S. Hawkins II echoed Earley’s concerns by acknowledging the impact COVID-19 has had on the Prince George community. “As the council prepares to receive the county executive's budget, we anticipate the fiscal impacts of COVID-19 to present challenges, as well as opportunities,” Hawkins II said.

He went on to add that the council is committed to collaborating with residents of Prince George’s county during the budget process to ensure that residents' requests are being met.

“The council remains committed to an open, inclusive, and participatory budget process. We look forward to working together with you to effectively and efficiently insure that Prince George’s county emerges stronger than ever before,” Hawkins II said.

Following the remarks made by Hawkins II and Earley, three residents of Prince George’s County provided their opinions on what the county should prioritize in the new operating budget.

Yuri Borovsky, a cycling enthusiast from District 5 (Bladensburg, Cheverly, Colmar Manor, Cottage City,​ Edmonston, Fairmount Heights, Glenarden​, Landover, Springdale, portions of Lanham, ​Mitchellville, and portions of unincorporated Bowie and Hyattsville), said that he hopes that the county council considers doing more for the trails system in the county, especially during the pandemic.

“The pandemic highlighted the need to get out of the house to go for a walk or go on a bike ride to stay physically and emotionally healthy,” Borovsky said.

Borovsky added that improving the trail system would help keep spending and jobs local. “The good news is that we know for a fact that trails for pedestrians and cyclists help grow small local businesses. Trails keep spending and jobs local, while helping support local business,” he said.

Lisa Smith, the executive director of the Bowie Business Innovation Center (BIC), a business accelerator program for technology companies and government contractors in Prince George’s County, said that they should be considered for grants in the operating budget for fiscal year 2022 for the work the organization has done to help grow and support local business.

After receiving $100,000 in fiscal year 2021 to provide assistance to businesses for retaining their pre-pandemic workforce and sustaining operations through COVID-19, the Bowie BIC helped support cash operating expenses including payroll, suppliers and rent for local businesses in Prince George county.

“I ask that you consider the demonstrated impact of Bowie BIC at its current $100,000 level in the fiscal year 2022 budget so we can continue to deliver an increased economic impact for Prince George’s County through jobs and company revenues,” Smith said.

Janet Gingold of District 6 (City of District Heights, Forestville, Kettering, Largo, Mitchellville and the unincorporated areas of Bowie, Capitol Heights and Upper Marlboro), who is a member of the Prince George’s Sierra Club, said that funding for the environment should be among the top priorities for the next operating budget.

“We count on you to protect our environment for the health of the residents of Prince George's County. Investing and transitioning away from fossil fuels and an infrastructure for a more resilient community is a necessary step for a sustainable future,” Gingold asserted.

The county budget office will formulate both a proposed budget and a capital budget that will then be transmitted to the county council by March 15. The county council will then hold two public hearings on the two budgets to get citizen feedback. The hearings are scheduled for April 26 and May 4, and will be held virtually via the Prince George County website streaming system.

The county council must approve the budget for fiscal year 2022 by June 1.

For more information regarding the county’s budget and important dates regarding the budget, visit the county council’s budget portal at pgccouncil.us/Budget.

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