Au­dit: Rev­enue ex­ceeds ex­pec­ta­tions

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

A progress re­port on the Penn­syl­va­nia Turn­pike cor­ri­dor rein­vest­ment project and the un­veil­ing of the Mont­gomery County 2016 Com­pre­hen­sive An­nual Fi­nan­cial Re­port were at the top of the agenda at the county com­mis­sion­ers’ Thurs­day meet­ing.

Mont­gomery County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Jody Holton and Section Chief Matt Ed­mond pre­sented the com­mis­sion­ers with an up­date on the turn­pike rein­vest­ment plan, which was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with the Turn­pike Com­mis­sion, Pen­nDOT, the Delaware Val­ley Re­gional Plan­ning Com­mis­sion and eight mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties along the turn­pike cor­ri­dor.

The goal of the plan, Holton said, is to rein­vig­o­rate busi­ness com­plexes through im­proved ac­cess along the turn­pike be­tween the Val­ley Forge and Wil­low Grove in­ter­changes.

The plan fo­cuses on the con­struc­tion of new in­ter­changes to bal­ance con­ges­tion and the re­zon­ing of of­fice cam­puses along the cor­ri­dor to spur eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Since un­veil­ing the plan in 2015, the plan­ning com­mis­sion has se­cured a com­mit­ment of $66 mil­lion from the Penn­syl­va­nia Turn­pike Com­mis­sion to be dis­bursed be­tween 2017 and 2024 for de­sign and con­struc­tion of a new Lafayette Street in­ter­change in Nor­ris­town as the cap­stone of the Lafayette Street Ex­ten­sion Street Project.

The state has also awarded more than $2 mil­lion to Up­per Dublin Town­ship to build a slip ramp at the Fort Wash­ing­ton in­ter­change, and 1,254 acres of of­fice park real es­tate has been re­zoned for mixed use, which will al­low for higher den­sity, and trans­form those spa­ces into “live, work (and) play com­mu­ni­ties,” Holton said.

Both Holton and Ed­mond pointed to­ward the Up­per Me­rion area of the cor­ri­dor for ex­am­ples of suc­cess­ful plan­ning and re­zon­ing ef­forts and on­go­ing trans­porta­tion de­vel­op­ment.

On the de­vel­op­ment side, Holton touted the town­ship’s re­zon­ing of the King of Prus­sia busi­ness district, which paved the way for the com­ple­tion of the first phase of a lin­ear busi­ness park along First Av­enue and the pop­u­lar Vil­lage at Val­ley Forge, with ad­di­tional projects to come.

Ed­mond high­lighted the widen­ing of Route 422 at the Schuylkill River Bridge and the pro­posed ex­ten­sion of the Nor­ris­town HighSpeed Line into King of Prus­sia which is wind­ing its way through the plan­ning process.

Other projects noted in the pre­sen­ta­tion in­cluded the Ridge Pike Im­prove­ment Project fromthe turn­pike to Chem­i­cal Road, which is cur­rently in the de­sign phase; in­creased de­vel­op­ment around the Ridge Pike in­ter­change in Ply­mouth Meet­ing; and the $35 mil­lion Life Time Ath­letic health club built next to a planned zip ramp in­ter­change in Fort Wash­ing­ton.

Fol­low­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion, Mont­gomery County Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer Dean Dor­tone pre­sented an up­date on the results of the county’s 2016 fi­nan­cial au­dit.

Dor­tone re­ported au­di­tor’s results show that the county ex­ceeded its $389.7 mil­lion to­tal 2016 bud­geted rev­enue and col­lected $402.1 mil­lion last year, with the largest in­crease com­ing from fed­eral and state grant rev­enue, due in part to pro­vi­sional grant funds re­ceived dur­ing the 2016 bud­get im­passe.

More than half the rev­enue (50.4 per­cent) was gen­er­ated from real es­tate taxes, while grants (36 per­cent), de­part­men­tal earn­ings (11.5 per­cent) and other rev­enue made up the re­main­der.

County ex­pen­di­tures stood at $385.8 mil­lion, which is bet­ter than the $389.7 mil­lion ex­pected.

A sav­ings of $1.4 mil­lion was achieved through the re­fi­nanc­ing of out­stand­ing debt, but was off­set by a $1.6 mil­lion in­crease in over­time, largely ac­crued by em­ploy­ees at county cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties.

Dor­tone told the com­mis­sion­ers that one point of pos­si­ble im­prove­ment would be the county’s fund bal­ance, which stands at 14 per­cent of gen­eral fund rev­enues; con­sid­er­ably lower than the av­er­age 26.5 per­cent av­er­age of sev­eral neigh­bor­ing coun­ties he cited.

An im­prove­ment in the fund bal­ance could con­trib­ute to boost­ing the county’s cur­rent AA1 credit rat­ing to AAA, but the over­all state of the county fi­nances is good, Dor­tone said.

In other busi­ness Thurs­day, David Zellers was se­lected as the county’s new com­merce di­rec­tor.

Com­mis­sioner Val Arkoosh said Zellers “has a re­ally unique set of skills that I think will be ex­tremely help­ful to us.”

Zellers was for­merly em­ployed by the Penn­syl­va­nia De­part­ment of Com­mu­nity and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and the North­west Penn­syl­va­nia Plan­ning and De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion, where he au­thored a com­pre­hen­sive re­port on eco­nomic and work­force de­vel­op­ment strate­gies.

“(Zellers is) very en­thu­si­as­tic to help the county con­tinue its strong eco­nomic growth,” Arkoosh said.

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