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Montco draft budget has steep cuts, no new taxes

Montgomery County has unveiled a draft budget that includes some steep spending cuts but no new taxes. The commissioners' proposal cuts $5.1 million from the Community College budget - 24 percent - and eliminates all funding to organizations such as Legal Aid, the Victim Service Center, Elmwood Park Zoo, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters, for a total savings of nearly $1 million.

Montgomery County has unveiled a draft budget that includes some steep spending cuts but no new taxes.

The commissioners' proposal cuts $5.1 million from the Community College budget - 24 percent - and eliminates all funding to organizations such as Legal Aid, the Victim Service Center, Elmwood Park Zoo, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters, for a total savings of nearly $1 million.

The budget does not stipulate layoffs, and the commissioners would not comment on future personnel changes.

Since taking office in January, the commissioners have closed a $10 million budget gap. Previous budgets, they said, were based on false calculations and willful neglect - or, as Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr. described it, "lies," "smoke and mirrors," and "malfeasance."

Despite about $48 million in shortfalls and underfunding from the previous administration - of which Castor was a member and remains an acerbic critic - the county has avoided plunging off a fiscal cliff.

The proposed 2013 budget, Commissioners Chairman Josh Shapiro said, takes small steps toward investment and savings without "eviscerating programs, without mass layoffs, and without raising taxes."

The proposal includes a $2.5 million contribution to the reserve fund, which had been depleted by $75 million since 2007 and contributed to a downgrading of the county's bond rating in July.

The county would also make a $3.3 million deposit in the pension fund, which had been neglected for four years.

As in previous years, the county expects to have to borrow money in the first months of 2013 to meet operating expenses.

Hearings on the proposal will be held Nov. 29 at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., and the board plans to pass a final budget at its Dec. 6 meeting.