Montgomery County’s money issues are starting to show.
Last week, Fitch Ratings of New York notified county officials that it was downgrading the county’s bond rating. The previous rating of “AAA” would change to “AA+.”
The rating change applies to $18 million in Redevelopment Authority debt, most related to the Cherry Street garage.
Fitch based this downgrade to “a sizeable decline in the county’s general fund balance following several years of large operating deficits.”
Josh Shapiro, chairman of the county’s board of commissioners, wasn’t happy.
“Today’s report from Fitch ,and their downgrade of the Redevelopment Authority’s bond rating to “AA+,” makes clear that the irresponsible spending over the past four years severely depleted the reserve fund to an unacceptably low level and dug Montgomery County into a deep financial hole that will take time to recover from,” said Shapiro in a statement.
The county’s money has shrunk significantly since 2007. That year, the county had roughly $95.5 million in reserve, but by the end of 2011 the figure shrunk to roughly $20 million.
“The report is disappointing because we have just begun to turn things around and dig ourselves out of the hole,” Shapiro said. “Fitch themselves noted that fact.”
The current administration has taken many steps to fix problems. They have already worked on an operating budget for next year and closely looked at spending.
All three commissioners have opinioned that the prior administration wasted countless taxpayers dollars.
“We will build on the progress we’ve made in our initial four months in office,” Shapiro said. “Our efforts were noted positively and acknowledged by the Fitch analysts who wrote that our new administration is “actively seeking ways to streamline government and cut expenses, and plans to create a formal fund balance policy to increase the county’s fund balance.”
Recently, the county stated county bridges would need repair. They are also looking into correcting the Emergency 911 system as well.
Also, the administration passed a procurement policy to avoid any favoritism in bids, which caused a grand jury investigation for a few members of the prior administration.
It is yet to be decided if taxes will rise next year.
“Montgomery County taxpayers can be certain that we are getting our fiscal house in order,” Shapiro said. “We’ve cut nearly $7 million from the budget in excessive spending, adopted a streamlined and focused capital budget, passed a new procurement policy to ensure integrity in the process and the best value for taxpayers, and we have consolidated staffing. More needs to be done and we will do it.”