County announces budget with no tax increase

BROOKVILLE — Tuesday, Jefferson County’s Financial Planner Debbie Hackett announced there will be no tax increase for the coming year.
But this good news may not last long into the future.

“We will not be having a tax increase at this point, but we have done some studies looking out in the future, and we can’t say that that’s necessarily going to go past this year,” Hackett said.

Tuesday, the Jefferson County Commissioners approved to place the 2012 budget on display for 20 days, with final adoption scheduled for Dec. 13.
According to Hackett, $11,527,688 is the county’s total revenue for the
general fund. The general fund’s total deficit is $53,752.

But that number, unlike in past years, will be taken from the county’s fund balance of $1,975,018.

“Fortunately, Jefferson County is now in a position where we actually have a fund balance at the end of the year, so we can take that deficit out of our fund balance,” Hackett said.

Of the $1,975,018, some of the money is restricted, some is non-spendable, and some has already been assigned for other purposes, but a “majority of it is unassigned,” Hackett said.

County Commission Chairman Paul Corbin, along with Commissioners Jim McIntyre and Jeff Pisarcik recently attended a County Commissioner Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) convention and learned that the future of the county’s funding looks a little bleak.

“Even though we were able to hold our line on our budget this year … that sure doesn’t say that in future years, things might have to be different,” Corbin said.

According to Corbin, the revenue of the state to date is $282 million behind where it was last year.

“If you’re in a deficit position, you’re going to have to cut things back,” he said. “The word (at the CCAP convention) was, you thought the budget process this year was difficult to get through, just wait till next year.”

McIntyre also expressed worry, especially for human services.

“On the horizon, it looks like there’s going to be a new way of conducting human services across the board, beyond Children and Youth, Drug and Alcohol, MH/MR — there are some major issues looming there,” McIntyre said. “It’s real.”

McIntyre said the state’s Department of Welfare must trim $400 million off the state budget by June 30, 2012.

“Nobody knows how that’s going to play out, so we have to be prepared for how we might deal with it,” he said. “They say deliver the services more cost-effectively, but I don’t know how much more cost-effective you can get. Because everybody’s been cutting the waste to run these programs efficiently.”

Although there’s not a lot of good financial news, the commissioners are hopeful that the Marcellus Shale industry will grow even more in the county.

“As the Marcellus Shale industry comes more to Jefferson County, maybe our revenues will increase from taxes, business expansion,” Corbin said. “That’s one of the reasons why we tried to hold the line this year and hopefully look to that growth … and a lot of our local industries are growing because of it.”

In other business:
• Jefferson County Treasurer Jim “Moon” VanSteenberg reported that the Jefferson County Treasurer’s office will be open from 2 to 4 p.m. today to anyone eligible for a Military Hunting License and/or a Doe License.
VanSteenberg said he has had tremendous response with this practice in past years. Anyone interested must have their leave papers, military ID and LES statement ready.

Furthermore, if a person is not eligible for a full military hunting license at the reduced rate, the Treasurer’s office can still issue a Military Doe License. For anyone not able to visit the Treasurer’s Office today, call VanSteenberg at 814-856-2489.

• The commissioners entered into an agreement with the North Central Regional Planning and Development Commission.

The commissioners agreed to participate in a regional transportation planning and asset management project for data utilization and sharing activities.

According to Kristin Hullihen, this will serve as a Web-based asset management and will be a planning tool for county and municipal officials.

She said the service may be opened up to the public in the future.
• The commissioners approved invoices in the amount of $290,051.38 for the period Nov. 10 through Nov. 23 inclusive.

• The commissioners approved pending invoices in the amount of $336,584.95.

• The commissioners approved the actual gross payroll in the amount of $196,969.27 for payment for the period Nov. 20 through Dec. 3 inclusive.
• The commissioners approved the tentative gross payroll in the amount of $198,000 for payment for the period Nov. 6 through Nov. 19 inclusive.

• The next regularly scheduled county commission meeting will take place at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13.