Party lines were sharply drawn at a recent meeting in Norristown to discuss the county’s 2023 budget. Democrats Valerie Arkoosh (chair) and Ken Lawrence (vice chair) indicated approval. And Republican Joe Gale voiced dissent. Rachel Ravina captured the divergence for The Reporter Online.
The county’s 2023 spending plan shows an eight percent real estate tax hike, proposed to fill an $18.6 million shortfall.
Arkoosh and Lawrence positioned it as necessary, given the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, “global events,” high inflation, and Hurricane Ida, all of which represented economic hits to the county.
Arkoosh particularly explained the 2021 flood damage expenses. She cited that recovery work from Ida was “paid for by county funds.” She continued: “We hope to secure FEMA reimbursement for most of that work, but that has yet to be confirmed.”
Gale characterized Arkoosh’s explanation as “blame” on external forces. He sees the proposed tax lift as “out-of-control spending … that’s reflected in the budget deficit, and … the long history of property tax increases in Montgomery County.”
Lawrence tried to contextualize the motion, saying, “There is still a level of service we must provide, and we will continue to provide those services as efficiently as possible while meeting our growing county needs.”
Gale’s spending targets included the $112.1 million new justice center rising in Norristown.
Arkoosh defended it as being “on time and on budget” and reminded Gale of its role as an economic driver in one of the county’s economically struggling downtowns.
The budgetary process is next heading to two Dec. 1 public hearings.
More complete information on Montgomery County’s disputed 2023 budget is at The Reporter Online.