By Arelis R. Hernández June 19 at 5:25 PM
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) announced Friday that he will accept the 2016 operating budget approved by the County Council and not challenge it in court, bringing an end to the most bitter battle he has waged with the council since taking office.
In a statement, Baker said he decided to put the interests of county residents “ahead of a lengthy and divisive legal process” surrounding a section of county law that he and the council interpreted differently.
The litigation would have fostered “uncertainty and disharmony,” the statement said.
The council rejected Baker’s proposal for a 15-percent hike in the property tax rate to generate more funds for public schools. Baker then vetoed parts of the budget passed by the council, demanding a tax rate hike of 11.45 percent. But the council overrode that veto and stuck with a 4-percent property tax rate hike — the first in Prince George’s in more than three decades — and a 1.5-cent increase in the park and planning tax.
Baker went on a countywide tour this spring to drum up support for his proposal to raise taxes dramatically to generate $133 million for public schools. He argued that better schools would boost home prices, attract new families and businesses and improve the county’s regional competitiveness.
But he failed to convince residents or win cooperation from lawmakers. The council passed an alternative budget that cut most of the Baker’s new initiatives and eliminated proposed furloughs and layoffs.
Baker then said that the county was barred by law from adjusting his proposed budget by more than 1 percent — a contention that council members said was ludicrous.
In his statement, Baker said the controversy over school funding was evidence that “we are very passionate about this place we call home.”