County commissioners approve 2013 general fund budget
The Montgomery County Commissioners unanimously passed the $409.6 million 2013 general fund budget during their regular business meeting Dec. 6.
7hH fiJuUHV WhDW PDNH uS WhLV nuPEHU UHflHFW WhH DFWuDO projected spending by the county in 2013. It assumes $409.6 million in expenditures and $412.2 million in revenues.
The commissioners also YRWHd WR PDNH VWULdHV WRward recouping losses to the county’s fund balance, which represents 12.5 percent of the more than $20 million required to restore it to recommended levels.
Approval of this balanced budget will mean no real es- tate tax increase for county residents.
“It is an honest budget. It is a transparent budget,” said Montgomery County Commissioners Chairman Josh Shapiro.
“The 2013 budget primarLOy UHflHFWV WhH nHHd WR UHSDLU errors of commission and omission by prior administrations, as well as absorbing state cuts to human services and continuing to grapple with the effects of the national recession.”
The budget was adopted quietly, without a word of protest from members of the SuEOLF — D VWDUN FRnWUDVW to the fervent and at times emotional testimony given DW WhH SUHYLRuV wHHN’V Eudget hearing.
As it was proposed, all HDUPDUNV wHUH WR EH HOLPL- nated, including stipends previously given out to a total of 20 entities — some now considered extraneous in terms of their legality within the county budget.
The 2013 budget was adopted with a few adjustments, differing from how it was proposed Nov. 15.
ChLHI )LnDnFLDO 2Ificer Uri Monson explained how some revenue estimates were corrected in the amended budget. Legal Aid of Southeastern PennsylvanLD wDV DPRnJ WhH HDUPDUNV to be zeroed out, but the organization was awarded two contracts of $200,000 and $70,000 to provide legal services to needy individuals in the area. The Women’s Center of Montgomery County was given a $10,000 contract and the Montgom- ery County Child Advocacy Project received $20,000.
Montgomery County Community College will receive a subsidy of $15.8 million, down from $21 million in 2012.
When the current comPLVVLRnHUV WRRN RIfiFH Ln January, they inherited a $10 million shortfall left by the previous administration.
Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr. has warned residents for years that if WhH FRunWy dLd nRW PDNH a payment to the pension fund, it would find itself in trouble. Adoption of the budget saw the first time in four years the county put anything toward pensions.
“This budget is very lean and it’s very tight, and it will EH dLIfiFuOW Rn D ORW RI SHRple. But as a result of it, we will have a base on which to build and we will be able to put Montgomery County in a position where it can resume its former greatness that it once had, and be regarded DV WhH finHVW FRunWy JRYHUnment in all of Pennsylvania,” said Castor.
During budget hearings ODVW wHHN, FRPPLVVLRnHUV heard tearful pleas from parents associated with the ARC Alliance (formerly the Montgomery County Association for Retarded Citizens) and other social service agencies. They DVNHd WhH FRPPLVVLRnHUV WR reconsider cutting funding to those agencies, despite Shapiro’s assertion that the budget needed to focus its resources on providing the core services of government.
“WhLOH WhHVH HDUPDUNV supported many worthwhile organizations, legitimate questions were raised about the legality of these payments in prior budgets,” he said. “Upon researching the issue, it became clear that the commissioners are nRW DuWhRULzHd WR PDNH WhHVH NLndV RI dLUHFW DSSURpriations under the Second Class County Code, and that such transfers of taxpayer dollars are further prohibited by provisions of the Pennsylvania State Constitution.”
In addition, 58 employees from the Montgomery County Behavioral Health/ Developmental Disabilities Department will be laid off at the beginning of next year.