With only a few weeks left in its existence, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors showed last week why it needs to be replaced as the governing authority for Montgomery County. The majority of the board, against the advice of the county's auditing firm, voted to once again use a large portion of the county's reserves to turn a 2 percent tax-levy increase into a 4 percent tax-levy reduction.
While we like to see taxes go down, to cut them in this manner is irresponsible. Montgomery County's reserves have fallen from $11.4 million last year to $7.4 million now. County Treasurer Shawn Bowerman had recommended the board spend only $2.3 million of the reserve fund to keep the tax-levy increase to 2 percent. Town of Florida Supervisor William Strevy then proposed spending another $1.5 million from the fund balance to eliminate the tax-rate increase for the town of Florida, which has a high tax rate due to its low equalization rate. This decision will knock the county's fund balance down to $3.5 million, which is precariously low for a county that has a $101 million budget.
This move by the board could hamstring the new nine-member county legislature and the new county executive set to take office in January. Only two members of the Board of Supervisors, Thomas Quackenbush and Barbara Wheeler, will carry over into the new legislature.
Quackenbush, along with Amsterdam Supervisor Tom DiMezza, voted against Strevy's proposal, but Wheeler and the rest of the board voted for it. Quackenbush was wise to reject the spending and Wheeler should have known better. The Board of Supervisors at times has been a board of self-interested representatives willing to put the interests of individual municipalities above the interests of the county. Let's hope the new legislature will put an end to such an approach.