The Prince George’s County Council’s education and workforce development committee discussed on Monday substantial budget increases for the county’s library system and Prince George’s Community College for the 2024 fiscal year.
Under the proposed budget, the county’s library system is expected to receive a more than $2 million increase in funding next year — a 5.7 percent increase for fiscal year 2024. The community college is slated to receive millions in more funding.
The county’s library system’s budget increase will consist of nearly $1 million toward communications and outreach and an almost $500,000 higher investment in public services.
Nicholas Brown, acting co-CEO of the library system, touted the systems’ recent accomplishments, including launching an internet connectivity program for low-income residents.
Providing information resource services to the community, increasing participation at after-school programs and expanding the number of internet sessions by library customers are among the system’s key goals in 2024, Brown said.
Some county council members had questions about the library system’s priorities in the near future.
District 3 council member Eric Olson, who represents College Park, questioned why the budget didn’t include a study on employee compensation to increase retention rates among library system employees.
“[The county council] talked about the need to get more staffing and … if we wait a year, that [cost] is going to go up,” Olson said.
District 8 council member Edward Burroughs III hoped the library budget would be more ambitious and address the decline in literacy rates among the county’s students since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would really like for you all to consider what it would take to make your organization to be the lead organization in literacy remediation and support for our most vulnerable students,” Burroughs said to Brown.
In response to Burroughs’ concerns, Brown urged county residents to promote the library system’s existing literacy resources, including free virtual tutoring, through a grassroots campaign.
Nearly 29 percent of the community college’s budget is allotted for tuition and fees as the higher education system aims to stabilize student tuition following higher than expected enrollment. The budget will also strengthen support for specializations in high demand including nursing, allied health, cybersecurity, information technology, automotive technology and logistics transportation.
Falecia Williams, the college president, said the increase in funding will be crucial in achieving the benchmarks the higher education system set.
“We have set a vision for 2030 that really is about doubling each of our outcome measures,” Williams said.
By 2030, the county hopes to have a post-secondary enrollment rate of more than 50 percent, a graduation rate exceeding 60 percent and a four-year graduation and transfer rate of 70 percent, Williams said.
In 2024, the county also expects to deliver 600 “Promise” scholarships, which cover tuition and fees for recipients. The expansion of the “Promise” program earned high praise from several council members.
The proposed 2024 budget is expected to be debated by the entire county council through April before formal adoption on May 25.