Montgomery County Commissioners hear proposed 2019 budget with no tax increase

The proposed budget recommends no real estate tax millage increase.                                              

Montgomery County Commissioners hear proposed 2019 budget with no tax increase

By Oscar Gamble 

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 short-term 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 employee 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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