The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday signed off on next year’s budget, including a 2% raise for employees.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, department heads were asked to make little changes in their budget requests for 2021. The budget includes about $12.9 million in the general fund — a 3.75% increase over last year.
“We’ll be fine in 2021,” said councilman Gary Booth, who sits on the council’s budget committee, noting that revenues are projected to decline in the coming years.
“It might be a tough road in two to three years… with all the things we have planned to do,” Booth added.
Part of the general fund increase is tied to an 8% hike in health insurance costs, as the council seeks to avoid cutting taxpayer services.
In an effort to keep costs lower, the budget committee went line-by-line in the general fund searching for areas where departments budgeted more money than was historically spent.
If a requested line item was more than 200% of its three-year spending average, the extra money was cut unless there was a reason for including it in the budget.
“We’re trying to get all the surplus capital out of the budget,” said Booth, who was the lone vote against adopting the general fund, saying the increase was higher than he liked.
Council president Tom Mellish asked auditor Jennifer Andel whether the general fund reductions could be placed into the rainy day account, which currently sits at zero for next year.
“The council has the ability to put money into rainy day if that’s what they see fit,” Andel said.
The council voted 4-3 to eliminate more than $99,000 in riverboat casino revenue that was budgeted for marketing. The revenue had previously been used to pay the county administrator’s salary, which was moved to the general fund.
Members said they wanted to see a specific marketing plan to determine how much to spend.
“I’m not opposed to spending money on marketing and figuring out a way to move forward,” councilman Mark Davidson said. “I’d like to see a real proposal, real numbers before I just approve that.”
Emptying the riverboat fund drew concern from Board of Commissioners President Jim Fulwider, who addressed the council after the budget was adopted.
Fulwider voiced support for newly-hired county administrator Tom Klein, who oversaw the growth of Avon in his previous role.
“I guess I am a little bit dissatisfied with the fact that we zeroed it out,” Fulwider said. “I definitely understand the reductions, but we need to have a little bit of ability that if [Klein] needs to do something on a quick basis, we don’t have time necessarily to wait until you guys meet every month [to request funding].”
Fulwider added the commissioners would present a marketing plan to the council.
The adopted budget now goes to the state, where figures may be adjusted before the budget is approved.