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Should the County Transfer Recreation Programs from M-NCPP?

County Councilmember Tom Dernoga has sent this message to the community about a proposed change to transfer Recreation Programs from M-NCPP to a new Recreation Authority under the control of the County Executive. Please see that message below.
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Recently, the County’s State House delegation had a hearing (starting at 3:00) on a new bill (PG-406) that proposes a Work Group to provide for a transfer of the recreation programs (Youth sports, art, senior services, etc.) from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) to a new Recreation Authority under the control of the County Executive.
The Work Group is to make recommendations on: (1) the powers and duties of the recreation authority; (2) which existing functions could be assumed by the recreation authority; (3) funding for the county recreation authority; (4) any necessary changes to state or county law necessitated; and (5) issues arising from the transfer of any personnel to the recreation authority. The Work Group is to provide its report by December 31, 2022.
The legislation is supported by the County Executive and many Prince George’s County Delegates. The hearing commenced with a 4-minute video (starting at 4:20) describing the arguments in favor of creating a Recreation Authority. The video was produced by “Team Takeover” which also has a website with information.
First, every other County has a recreation department under County government. County recreation programs were transferred to M-NCPPC in the 1970s at a time of changes in racial demographics. Second, the current structure has resulted in the lack of quality programming. Third, only children whose parents can afford to play organized sports.
I have had my disagreements with M-NCPPC and I am no M-NCPPC apologist. I am keeping an open mind, but questions abound:
  • Clearly this late filed bill was planned in advance since it had a video, website and witnesses. Why were M-NCPPC, the County Council and many delegates not briefed in advance? Why was the broader public not notified?
  • Why is the Work Group comprised almost entirely of elected officials – people that lack qualifications to conduct the necessary financial, legal and programmatic analysis?
  • PG-406 has no provisions regarding public meetings or hearings. How often will it meet? Who will provide staffing? How will the public be engaged? Clearly, some residents are dissatisfied with MNCPPC. How will the interests of people satisfied with M-NCPPC be incorporated?
  • Have the proponents identified specific failures by M-NCPPC? Is a Recreation Authority the solution to the failure?
  • One of the biggest complaints is the lack of an M-NCPPC Youth Sports program. If the Recreation Authority creates such a program, will it require property tax increases or reduction of existing programs? Which programs? The proponents must address this question with financial details, not broad claims.
  • The stated or implied expectation is that all or much of the current $0.078 property tax rate will be transferred to the new Recreation Authority. These funds are currently used to run the community centers and recreation programs. Will property tax increases be necessary to fund the expansion of Youth Sports?
  • Will all of M-NCPPC’s community centers be transferred to the Recreation Authority?
  • Sports fields are generally part of the Park Program and funded by the separate Park tax. Will Park Program facilities and funds also have to transferred to the Recreation Authority?
  • How will duplicate administration be avoided?
Ultimately, I am left wondering. It is said that our residents pay all of the Recreation taxes, yet we lack local control. M-NCCPC/PG has a Board of Prince Georgians, appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council, which hires a Director to oversee a bureaucracy. Due to the lack of quality programming, we should replace this structure with an Authority of Prince Georgians, appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council, which hires a Director to oversee a bureaucracy? I am definitely interested in hearing more.
[Office of the CM Dernoga]
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