Montgomery County passes $111.2M budget: legislature votes 5-4

FONDA – Despite a somewhat rancorous meeting the previous week, the Montgomery County Legislature on Tuesday passed a $111.2 million budget for 2017. The vote was 5-4.

At issue was an error in the original budget proposal and debate over spending additional dollars from the fund balance.

County Executive Matt Ossenfort’s original budget proposal called for spending $3,825,000 of the county’s $11.8 million fund balance. That, in itself, drew complaints from legislators opposed to spending the fund balance.

At the previous week’s session, the legislature had added approximately $42,000 in additional appropriations to Ossenfort’s original budget. County Treasurer Shawn Bowerman informed the legislature at that time that those additions would push the budget over the state-imposed tax cap.

Then on Tuesday, legislators were informed they needed to come up with an additional $29,000 – the result of an error in anticipated revenue – money owed to the city of Amsterdam.

After debate, the $29,000 was added to the fund-balance appropriation in the budget.

The budget passed Tuesday night included a $258,000 property tax levy increase and the spending of $3.897,000 in fund balance, which included the $29,000, plus the amendments. Ossenfort now has the option of accepting the budget as passed by the legislature or sending it back to them with proposed changes.

At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting Legislator Joseph Isabel submitted a resolution to adopt the budget as amended the previous week. During the course of the meeting he withdrew his sponsorship of the resolution, but it was quickly picked up by Legislator Thomas Quackenbush.

The debate on the measure was less on the contents of the budget than a question of the purpose and use of the fund balance, which protects the county from unanticipated expenses such as natural disasters or major equipment failures.

Legislator Roy Dimond reminded everyone that the fund balance is taxpayer money and should be used to ensure the tax cap is not violated. Legislator Barbara Wheeler agreed with Dimond and stated a large number of her constituents were elderly and that a tax increase would be detrimental to their welfare.

Legislator John Duchessi ended the debate when he moved to call the question and force a vote. His motion passed and the ensuing vote on the resolution itself passed by a vote of 5-4 with Legislators Terry Bieniek, Martin Kelly, Joseph Isabel and Robert Purtell voting against the proposal.

Later, Duchessi said he was happy with the outcome and that it was a good budget, keeping in mind that all budgets have to be tweaked during the year.

By -