The few concerns we had regarding the 2018 tentative Montgomery County budget drafted by County Executive Matthew Ossenfort have been assuaged by changes made by the legislature on Tuesday.
The 25 amendments approved by the legislature were recommended by the Budget and Finance Committee. The changes increased the tentative budget by approximately $400,000, but reduced the tax levy increase by .22 percent.
The key to this fiscal trick was increasing the estimated sales tax revenue by $475,000.
Ossenfort said he wasn’t comfortable in increasing sales tax revenue in his budget to that extent, preferring to be “cautious.”
However, Montgomery County Treasurer Shawn Bowerman said the most recent sales tax projections look to validate the budgetary increase.
We like Ossenfort’s strategy of being conservative with revenue estimations, but we don’t think the sales tax projection is unrealistic.
With the extra revenue in hand, legislators were able to play Robin Hood — adding or restoring several items to Ossenfort’s budget, including an amendment of $85,000 to fund the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce as the county’s tourism agent.
Ossenfort had cut the funding for tourism from his budget, shifting the responsibility to the county’s Economic Development/Planning department. Unfortunately, previous attempts by the county to handle tourism in-house have not been as efficient as outsourcing tourism responsibilities to the chamber.
However, Ossenfort’s action did result in Chamber Executive Director Mark Kilmer trimming $45,000 from their expense to the county.
Other amendments to the budget include adding a full-time sheriff’s deputy position, the cost of which will be offset by several part-time positions; increasing the Montgomery County Office for Aging line by $20,000 to a total of $287,000; adding a probation assistant for $33,559; removing several office furniture line items; and adding a $60,000 increase for motor vehicle equipment.
According to County Legislative Chairman Roy Dimond, Ossenfort now has until Oct. 23 to veto any of the amendments.
“If we do not receive anything from the executive by the 23, the budget will pass as proposed this evening,” he said Tuesday. “If we do receive vetoes from the executive they will be addressed the following day at our regular monthly meeting which is Tuesday, Oct. 24.”
As long as Ossenfort is comfortable with the expanded sales tax revenue we don’t expect him to veto any of the changes.
The result will be a budget that stays under the tax cap with a 2.22 percent tax increase.
We think it’s a sound fiscal plan.
Credit goes to Ossenfort, the Budget and Finance Committee — led by Chairman Michael Pepe (District 7 legislator) — and Bowerman.