CFO presents pos­i­tive six-month fi­nan­cial snap­shot

The Community Connection - - LOCAL NEWS - By Os­car Gam­ble ogam­ble@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @OGam­ble_TH on Twit­ter

NORRISTOWN » The cur­rent fi­nan­cial out­look for Mont­gomery County is cau­tiously op­ti­mistic.

That was the mes­sage county CFO Dean Dor­tone con­veyed to the county com­mis­sion­ers at their Aug. 9 meet­ing.

Dor­tone pro­vided the com­mis­sion­ers with a snap­shot of county fi­nances after the com­ple­tion of the sec­ond fis­cal quar­ter, in­clud­ing data on rev­enue col­lec­tion, emerg­ing trends and de­part­men­tal re­ports ahead of the for­mu­la­tion of the 2019 bud­get, slated for re­lease Nov. 15.

About 71 per­cent of bud­get rev­enues were col­lected within the first six months of 2018 with about 48 per­cent of bud­geted ex­pen­di­tures made — which Dor­tone said is about where the county was ex­pected to be at this time.

On the rev­enue side, he said home sales have im­proved from a dip of 7 per­cent from May of last year to May of this year to lag only about 2 per­cent yearto-date.

“Over­all, we col­lected about $290 mil­lion of the rev­enue, 68 per­cent of it is real es­tate taxes, and ob­vi­ously the grants fol­low right be­hind,” Dor­tone said.

The county’s real es­tate col­lec­tion rate as of June 30 was 96 per­cent, ahead of the penalty phase for late pay­ment, and the $3.8 mil­lion in dis­counted prop­erty taxes for fil­ing ahead of time is close to ex­actly the amount pre­dicted.

The county has also col­lected $22 mil­lion in ded­i­cated real es­tate taxes for the Mont­gomery County Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

Tak­ing into ac­count that real es­tate as­sess­ment ap­peals are cur­rently be­ing pro­cessed, Dor­tone said real es­tate as­sess­ment growth — cur­rently, .26 per­cent — is about where it should be, although below tar­get growth of .6 or .7 per­cent, and build­ing ac­tiv­ity re­mains ro­bust, with projects in the pipe­line pro­ceed­ing as ex­pected.

Depart­men­tally, reg­is­ter of wills rev­enues are up, which Dor­tone said is typ­i­cal of a strong econ­omy. Sher­iff’s de­part­ment’s rev­enues are up mod­er­ately as well due to trans­ac­tion vol­ume. And recorder of deeds rev­enues are trend­ing flat, but have sta­bi­lized over the sum­mer.

Clerk of courts rev­enue has been trend­ing down due to a de­clin­ing num­ber of crim­i­nal cases which have dropped 11 per­cent in the last two years.

Prothono­tary rev­enues are also trend­ing down de­spite across-the-board fee in­creases, a trend Dor­tone at­trib­uted to an over­ag­gres­sive bud­get pro­jec­tion.

Gam­ing rev­enue, Dor­tone said, is trend­ing sig­nif­i­cantly up­ward, gar­ner­ing about $550,000 so far and ex­pected to rake in about $1.6 mil­lion this year.

That means nearly $500,000 in pass-through rev­enue for Mis­sion Kids Child Ad­vo­cacy Cen­ter, Lau­rel House, and the Women’s Cen­ter of Mont­gomery County.

The county spent about 49 per­cent of its bud­get for health care, pen­sions, salar­ies and wages over the first six months, spend­ing 62 per­cent of its over­time bud­get, with turnover about as ex­pected.

In health care, the fi­nan­cial of­fice is pro­ject­ing moder­ate sav­ings. And 50 per­cent of pen­sion con­tri­bu­tions have been moved into the re­tire­ment fund.

The county has also paid down about 40 per­cent of debt ser­vice in the first six months of the year; spend­ing $18 mil­lion of a bud­get of ap­prox­i­mately $45 mil­lion based on a set sched­ule of prin­ci­pal and in­ter­est pay­ments.

“In­vest­ment in­come is strong and ex­pected to con­tinue,” Dor­tone said.

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