Draft bud­get avoids tax hike

CFO presents $420M 2019 fi­nan­cial plan

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - FRONT PAGE - By Os­car Gam­ble ogam­[email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @OGam­ble_TH on Twit­ter

NORRISTOWN >> The Mont­gomery County Com­mis­sion­ers voted to ap­prove the ad­ver­tise­ment of the county’s pro­posed 2019 bud­get at their Nov. 15 meet­ing.

The pro­posed bud­get rec­om­mends no real es­tate tax mill­age in­crease, so the rate will hold steady at 3.849 — 3.459 for gen­eral op­er­at­ing and .390 in ded­i­cated Mont­gomery County Com­mu­nity Col­lege fund­ing — for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year.

“Based on re­cent in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the board of as­sess­ment, the av­er­age sin­gle fam­ily home in Mont­gomery County with a market value of ap­prox­i­mately $315,000 (real es­tate as­sess­ment of $170,000) will pay ap­prox­i­mately $588 in real es­tate tax in 2019 based on this bud­get pro­posal,” said Mont­gomery County Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer Dean Dor­tone. An ad­di­tional $66 would go to MCCC.

The bal­anced bud­get projects $420.2 mil­lion in rev­enue and $420.1 mil­lion in ex­penses with an $86.5 mil­lion, or 20.6 per­cent fund balance.

The pro­jected rev­enue rep­re­sents a $13 mil­lion, or 3.2 per­cent in­crease from the 2018 bud­get and is made up of 49.9 per­cent real es­tate taxes, 36.2 per­cent fed­eral and state grants and, 12.8 per­cent de­part­men­tal earn­ings and 1.1 per­cent other rev­enue.

Ex­penses are up $16.7 mil­lion or 4.1 per­cent from the 2018 bud­get, with 44 per­cent com­ing from per­son­nel costs, 41.2 per­cent com­ing from con­trol­lable ex­penses such as con­tracted/provider ser­vices, 911 sub­sidy, ma­te­ri­als and sup­plies, equip­ment, and out­side agency con­tri­bu­tions. Debt ser­vice ac­counts for 11.2 per­cent of ex­penses, and all other ex­penses to­tal 3.6 per­cent of the to­tal.

The bud­get in­cludes a reeval­u­a­tion of user fees. And there will be some mod­er­ate in­creases in park fees, Dor­tone said.

The bud­get also as­sumes a con­tin­u­a­tion in cur­rent short­term in­ter­est rates and fund balance lev­els for in­vest­ment in­come as well as cur­rent lev­els of state gam­ing rev­enue.

On the ex­pen­di­ture side, the bud­get in­cludes con­trac­tual wage in­creases for de­tec­tives, cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers, and court-ap­pointed and court-re­lated per­son­nel as well as non­con­trac­tual em-

ployee base wage in­creases in ac­cor­dance with the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a county com­pen­sa­tion study con­ducted in 2017.

The county’s con­tri­bu­tion to the em­ployee re­tire­ment fund is pro­jected to be $9 mil­lion by the end of 2018 and con­tinue in­creas­ing in 2019 to ap­proach the bud­getary goal of 100 per­cent fund­ing.

The county plans to bor­row $50 mil­lion for cap­i­tal projects in­cluded in the 2019-2023 cap­i­tal im­prove­ment plan, adding $1.4 mil­lion in debt ser­vice in 2019.

The debt ser­vice on $15 mil­lion dol­lars for road and bridge projects is en­tirely funded through mo­tor ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion fees.

Dor­tone and his team will con­tinue to mon­i­tor hous­ing market fluc­tu­a­tions for their im­pact on the gen­eral fund and fed­eral and state bud­gets for any unan­tic­i­pated changes to grant fund­ing lev­els.

The com­mis­sion­ers thanked them for their four months of work meet­ing with all the se­nior man­age­ment teams of each county depart­ment to help put the bud­get to­gether.

“We’re re­ally proud of the work that our fi­nance team has been do­ing over the last sev­eral years,” said Com­mis­sion Chair Val Arkoosh. “And I just want to re­mind vot­ers and tax­pay­ers in the county that when this ad­min­is­tra­tion took over in 2012, the county was in pretty dire fi­nan­cial straits. And over the next 18 months, the county’s bond rat­ing was down­graded twice. I be­lieve there had been about six years with no pay­ment of the pension. The fund balance was nearly de­pleted. It was a pretty se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion.

“And since that time there has been a com­pletely fo­cused and ded­i­cated ef­fort to get this bud­get back on track and the best val­i­da­tion of that is that Moody’s did re­store the AAA bond rat­ing which is the high­est bond rat­ing pos­si­ble, last spring.

“We’re very pleased that we have been able to main­tain our ef­fort to not raise prop­erty taxes now for two bud­gets in a row,” she said.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress. We’ve been able to in­vest in our county in­fra­struc­ture We’ve been able to in­crease ser­vice de­liv­ery to our con­stituents. We’ve been able to in­vest in our county work­force and we’ve done that by main­tain­ing a very, very tight, for­ward-look­ing, multi-year bud­get process that we’re frankly very proud of at this point.”

The pro­posed 2019 pro­posed bud­get is now on­line at the Mont­gomery County web­site and hard copies are avail­able at the Mont­gomery County - Norristown Pub­lic Li­brary, 1001 Pow­ell St.

Pub­lic hear­ings on the pro­posed bud­get will be held Thurs­day, Nov. 29, at 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. in the Com­mis­sioner’s board room on the 8th floor of One Mont­gomery Plaza, 425 Swede St., Norristown. Both hear­ings will run un­til all pub­lic com­ment is recorded.

The Com­mis­sion­ers will con­sider the bud­get for adop­tion at their reg­u­larly sched­uled board meet­ing, Thurs­day, Dec. 13 ,at 10 a.m.

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