Cultural Programs, Higher Ed Hit Hard By MontCo Budget Cuts
Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
With the release of their FY 2012 Budget, the Montgomery County Commissioners have proposed to make up the county's $44 million budget shortfall entirely with program cuts, with no new revenues. Higher education and culture have been disproportionately targeted in the $389.3 million spending plan, accounting for nearly a quarter of the funds needed to bridge the budget shortfall, or $11 million of the County’s $44.4 million deficit.
The budget proposal released on November 30th reduces or eliminates funding for the Department of Parks and Heritage Services, the Planning Commission, the Elmwood Park Zoo, the Montgomery County/Norristown Library, and Montgomery County Community College.
“This one-sided approach to balancing Montco’s budget is penny wise and pound foolish,” explained Nancy DeLucia, Vice-President of Policy at the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and a Horsham Township resident. “Higher education and cultural funding don’t just affect County residents’ quality of life; they are crucial to our vitality and tax base.“
The County’s budget has already been subjected to three straight years of reductions. Without additional revenues, the County will be forced to eliminate services and departments that are highly valued by area residents. These cuts could result in the closing of the county library and would jeopardize the future of the Elmwood Park Zoo.
According to a press release issued by the office of the County Commissioners, Montgomery County residents pay less in taxes for properties of equal market value than in any of the neighboring counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Property taxes in Montgomery County are among the lowest in the state. All three sitting commissioners have said that they would not vote for the budget proposal as it is currently written.
Chairman James Matthews favors a 28.6% tax increase, which would offset the budget gap and keep spending level for the coming year.
Commissioner Joseph Hoeffel has proposed 5% across-the-board cuts to cover about half of the budget deficit with the remaining gap addressed through more modest tax increases.
Commissioner Bruce Castor signaled a willingness to consider tax increases during his 2011 reelection campaign, and has said that he is looking forward to reading Hoeffel’s plan and hearing more from the voters.
Voters will have an opportunity to voice their concerns at a public hearing scheduled for the Commission’s next meeting on December 7 at 10 AM. A final vote on the budget is expected on December 21st.
About the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
The Cultural Alliance’s work reflects these key principles: Arts and culture is an engine for economic growth. It has the power to elevate lives. It has the power to educate. We own it, as residents of the Greater Philadelphia region, because it comes from us. It helps individuals come together and grow as a community.
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With the release of their FY 2012 Budget, the Montgomery County Commissioners have proposed to make up the county's $44 million budget shortfall entirely with program cuts, with no new revenues. Higher education and culture have been disproportionately targeted, accounting for nearly a quarter of the funds needed to bridge the budget shortfall. A final vote is expected on December 21st.