Incoming Montco commissioners mum on tax hike

    Incoming Montgomery County Commissioners Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards declined to say Thursday whether they would try to roll back the county property tax increase enacted by lame-duck commissioners just days before Shapiro and Richards are inaugurated.

    The Democratic slate of Shapiro and Richards won election in November in part by promising to solve Montgomery County’s budget problems without a tax hike. Their victory over the GOP team of Bruce Castor and Jenny Brown broke 100 years of Republican control of the courthouse.

    Shapiro and Richards’ no-tax-hike pledge was particularly firm, especially for Democrats.

    “Leslie Richards and I have been clear from the get-go. We’re not going to raise taxes,” Shapiro said in a radio debate. “Bruce and Jenny in their own words have left the door open to that.”

    On Wednesday Castor voted with outgoing commissioners Joe Hoeffel and Jim Matthews to raise county property taxes by 17 percent.

    Shapiro and Richards weren’t available for interviews Thursday. They issued a written statement saying it would be “irresponsible and inappropriate, and possibly illegal according to the current county solicitor, to try and reconstruct the budget in 30 days.”

    “We were elected to bring fundamental reform to county government which will only come after a full analysis of the county budget and operations,” the statement said.

    The commissioners approved the tax hike and a $417 million budget after reviewing alternatives which called for drastic cuts to county services.

    Because county taxes don’t include school assessments, the impact of the increase will be moderate–about $77 a year for a typical homeowner.

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