By SHARON O’MALLEY
Firefighters, animal rescue workers and representatives of more than a dozen nonprofits asked Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks on Jan. 29 for a share of the county’s fiscal year 2025 budget.
The speakers included a handful of county residents who expressed concern about public school funding and the difficulty they have accessing social services. Most, however, were advocates for nonprofit organizations who outlined their need for staffing and expansion.
“Nonprofit organizations are not just organizations; they are the backbone of our community support system,” Tiffany Turner-Allen, executive director of Nonprofit Prince George’s County, said at the virtual “listening session,” which drew 28 speakers and an audience of approximately 75. Funding nonprofits, Turner-Allen said, “ensure[s] a stronger, more resilient community” and has a “profound impact.”
County law requires Alsobrooks to hold at least one public hearing before she submits a proposed budget to the Prince George’s County Council by March 15.
The County Council adopted a $5.4 billion budget for fiscal year 2024, up from $5 billion in 2023. But officials have warned that the county likely will have to cut spending as the government deals with the lingering impact of the pandemic and flat economic growth.
Still, Turner-Allen said, many nonprofits in the county already are “operating at the edge of their capacity.”
Speaker April Gower-Getz, executive director of the Prince George’s Provider Council, agreed, saying clinicians, teachers, counselors and other employees of nonprofits working with intellectually and developmentally disabled residents sometimes earn less than grocery store cashiers.
“We cannot compete with industries that pay more and require less expertise,” Gower-Getz told Alsobrooks and Stanley Earley, the county government’s director of management and budget, who attended the hearing. Some residents, Gower-Getz said, are not served because nonprofits are unable to recruit and retain staff who can find higher wages elsewhere.
Speakers also asked for funding for walking and bicycle trails, animal shelters, local fire department staffing, English language lessons for immigrants, food pantries, art classes for seniors, and support for blind and disabled residents.
One speaker asked Alsobrooks how the county could come up with the funding to fill all of the organizations’ requests.
“It would be nice to have some of everything, but where’s the money going to come from?” asked 30-year county resident Sherry James. “I understand everyone’s desire and needs; I appreciate everything that everyone has said today. … But where’s the money going to come from?”
Written comments on the Prince George’s County budget can be emailed to OMB@co.pg.md.us by Wednesday, January 31, 2024.