Mont­gomery County board ap­proves bud­get with no hike

The Willow Grove Guide - - OPINION - By Jenny Dehuff

jde­huff@jour­nalregis­ The Mont­gomery County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers unan­i­mously passed the $409.6 mil­lion 201P gen­eral fund bud­get dur­ing their reg­u­lar busi­ness meet­ing Dec. 6.

The fig­ures that make up this num­ber re­flect the ac­tual pro­jected spend­ing by the county in 201P. It as­sumes $409.6 mil­lion in ex­pen­di­tures and $412.2 mil­lion in rev­enues.

The com­mis­sion­ers also voted to make strides to­ward 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 es­tate tax in­crease for county res­i­dents.

“It is an hon­est bud­get. It is a trans­par­ent bud­get,” said Mont­gomery County Com­mis­sion­ers Chair­man gosh Shapiro.

“The 201P bud­get pri­mar­ily re­flects the need to re­pair 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 pub­lic — a stark con­trast to the fer­vent and at times emo­tional tes­ti­mony given at the pre­vi­ous week’s bud­get hear­ing.

As it was pro­posed, all ear­marks were to be elim­i­nated, 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 201P bud­get was adopted with a few ad­just­ments, dif­fer­ing from how it was pro­posed Nov. 15.

Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer Uri Mon­son ex­plained how some rev­enue es­ti­mates were cor­rected in the amended bud­get. Le­gal Aid of South­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia was among the ear­marks to be ze­roed out, but the or­ga­ni­za­tion was awarded t wo con­tracts of $200,000 and $T0,000 to pro­vide le­gal ser­vices to needy in­di­vid­u­als in the area. The Wom- en’s Cen­ter of Mont­gomery County was given a $10,000 con­tract and the Mont­gomery 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 com­mis­sion­ers took of­fice in gan­uary, they in­her­ited a $10 mil­lion short­fall left by the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Com­mis­sioner Bruce L. Cas­tor gr. has warned res­i­dents for years that if the county did not make 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 be dif­fi­cult on a lot of peo­ple. 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 as the finest county government in all of Penn­syl­va­nia,” said Cas­tor.

Dur­ing bud­get hear­ings last week, com­mis­sion­ers heard tear­ful pleas from par­ents as­so­ci­ated with the ARC Al­liance (for­merly the Mont­gomery County As­so­ci­a­tion for Re­tarded Ci­ti­zens) and other so­cial ser­vice agen­cies. They asked the com­mis­sion­ers to 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.

“While th­ese ear­marks 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 not au­tho­rized to make th­ese kinds of di­rect ap­pro­pri­a­tions 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.

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