$3M in Pay Raises Part of 11-Percent Tax Hike Proposal in Montgomery County

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

Montgomery County property owners would see an 11-percent tax increase next year in the proposed budget introduced Thursday by the county commissioners.

The increase would pay for $3 million in pay raises for non-Union county employees, $4 million in new funding for the county college and a $6 million contribution to the county surplus.

The $3 million in salary increases translates to a 2.75 percent raise for workers.

If approved next month, the budget would be the second straight to raise taxes following three years of no increases. Last year, taxes increased 9 percent.

Commissioners Val Arkoosh, Joe Gale and Josh Shapiro unanimously approved introduction of the budget and scheduled two public hearings on Dec. 1. One hearing will be at 11:30 a.m. Another will be 4 p.m.

The commissioners will then vote on the budget Dec. 15.

The tax increase would fund $18 million in new spending, as the 2017 budget would increase to $409 million from $391 million last year.

County Finance Director Dean Dortone said the salary increases bring Montgomery County workers closer to what workers in other counties make.

"The pay scales are a lot lower in Montgomery County than in other counties," he said.

Arkoosh said the increase in funding to Montgomery County Community College is long overdue. [[238427591, C]]

Total county funding for its community college system would increase from $18 million last year to $22 million in 2017.

Arkoosh also said officials at the college said the increase would allow for a tuition freeze. She did not know exactly how long such a freeze would last, saying the college’s board would release details about that at its next meeting.

"The intent of the community college code was to fund those colleges with a shared approach," Arkoosh said of funding for county colleges in Pennsylvania. "We have not been meeting our one-third obligation. I’m not sure if we ever have."

She was referring to how county colleges are supposed to be funded: one-third by counties, one-third by the state and one-third by student tuition.

Arkoosh became chairwoman of the three-commissioner governing body at the meeting. Shapiro, who was elected state attorney general last week, resigned as chairman, but said he would remain as commissioner until Jan. 1.

In January, he will be sworn in as attorney general.

Gale, the lone Republican among the three commissioners, said he was worried that the county was entering an "endless cycle of tax-and-spend."

He added that he has spent “a lot of hours to see where we can cut spending,” but did not provide any details at the meeting about potential cuts to the proposed budget. After the meeting, Gale said he did not support the proposed tax increase and the structure of the budget, which would pull out the county college of a separate tax. 

"We’re drastically reducing our operating expenses by no longer having the community college in the main budget," Gale said. "Yet we’re still spending all the money we would have spent on the community college."

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