Now that the new Montgomery County Commissioners have been in office for a few weeks, they are ready for the challenges that face the area.  

In the latest commissioners’ meeting, county officials went through paper work and did exactly what the prior administration did: spend money.

To their defense, commissioner Josh Shapiro, who was elected chairman, noted the current administration is honoring the commitments that were made in this year’s budget.  

“In the early days of this administration we are currently inheriting many decisions that were made by some if not all on the prior board,” he said. “We are honoring all of our commitments on the prior board. We are honoring decisions that are made in the past budget.”

For example, the prior administration committed close to $20,000 of county money to maintain a fish passage for two years — the current administration will only renew the contract for one year.  

“You have to understand we are in this somewhat hybrid situation where we are honoring commitments that are already made but also looking forward to the change that is required for county government,” Shapiro said.

With most departments reduced by 2.5 percent for 2011, the current board will have many financial challenges and try to change the view that commissioners are recklessly spending money.

“I think it is too soon to expect the commissioners to have a full understanding of the financial challenges that are facing he administration,” said returning commissioner Bruce Castor. “I have general knowledge of where I think things are, but not enough to be able to speak where commissioner Richards and Shapiro would want.” 

Shapiro wants residents to know his staff is hard at work to understand the budget and making wise decisions on how money is spent.

“We’ve have a number of people move out and we have a number of people move in,” he said. “We are working within the budget that we have to live under.” 

This may help eliminate a mad scramble at the end of the year come budget time. The prior administration needed numerous meetings to past the 2012 budget that caused uproar from residents with the proposed cuts.

“No one will be surprised where things are come November and December,” Shapiro said. “I think you are going to see a very professional operation by our CFO’s office. It will be public and transparent where things stand throughout the year.” 

Castor claims the prior administration kept financial matters close. This time around, he wants his colleagues to talk to each so that they are fully aware of the financial situation in the county.  He came into Shapiro’s defense for not knowing exact numbers of the budget from the prior administration because he didn’t fully know the numbers last year as a member of the board.

“Surely two or three weeks into it we can’t expect for him [Shapiro] to have a handle on that,” Castor said. “I don’t want my fellow commissioners to sit here and simply say they don’t know. There is no way any of us would fully know.”

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