Carbon County Commissioner Wayne Nothstein will serve as the chairman of the board for the next four years.
During the reorganizational meeting of the board of commissioners, held on Tuesday afternoon, the board unanimously voted to elect Nothstein as the chairman. Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard will serve as the vice chairman.
Following the reorganization of the board, the commissioners voted unanimously to reopen the 2012 budget, which had passed 2-1 by O'Gurek and former Commissioner Charles Getz last month, and called for 5 percent raises for county employees and a 1-mill decrease in real estate taxes, bringing the millage down to 5.893.
O'Gurek voted in favor of the reopening but asked the new board to give consideration to the taxpayers when revisiting the $46.8 million spending plan.
"I have no problem opening the budget because I recognize that some of the decisions made in crafting that budget don't represent the wishes of the majority commissioners," O'Gurek said. "I would just ask the board of majority commissioners to reconsider or give consideration to the tax decrease that was adopted in the 2012 budget.
"I think you know we're living in a time when people need to have a break and I think if we take a look at the budget in terms of carry-over balance and things that are in our contingency fund and changes that are likely to be made in the salary board, that there will be additional revenues added to the carry-over balance that I think the county could live with," O'Gurek continued.
"So I recognize your option to do that and don't have a problem with that, but I would like to have some discussion about giving back to the taxpayers something modest in the form of 1 mill. It's a time when the federal government's give back to people in the form of the tax break, so I would like us, as we move forward and look at the 2012 budget under the new administration, to keep the taxpayers in mind."
Nothstein said he would like to be able to do give back to the taxpayers, but is fearful of what the future holds with declining revenue and state and federal funding cuts. He also noted that his plans include changing the raises to 3 percent increases and resetting the millage back to 6.893.
"I fully respect that," Nothstein said in response to O'Gurek's plea, "but my biggest fear in the future is the declining revenues. As we all well know how many have filed appeals for tax reduction. That is going to hurt us. We know what is happening with our state and federal government cutting programs and keeping programs that are mandated that we have to support whether we like it or not.
"My big concern is that we will have to come back two years from now and double what was dropped," Nothstein added. "It's one of those decisions. I don't like it either. I certainly would like to do that for the people who pay the real estate tax, but I also realize the future. Maybe in the future we can do that but if things don't change, the economy doesn't change, I just think we're spending too much of that general fund balance that we have currently, would be taking it down to dangerously low."
O'Gurek said he understand Nothstein's position but again voiced that he hopes discussions will happen before a new budget is adopted.
Nothstein said discussions will be held prior to any action occurring. The commissioners now have until Feb. 15 to adopt a new 2012 budget.
In other matters, the board also voted to name an acting county administrator/chief clerk until a new administrator could be hired. The position became available on Dec. 31 after Randall Smith, former administrator, retired.
The acting administrator will be Eloise Ahner, who has served as the assistant chief clerk under Smith. She will receive a salary of $63,472.50 per year, effective Jan. 3.
Daniel A. Miscavige, the new county solicitor, also took his position at the meeting. He replaces attorney Michael Ozalas, who stepped down from the solicitor position on Jan. 2.
Miscavige thanked Ozalas for his assistance with helping to make the transition smooth.
The board also approved the following changes in status:
Ÿ Christine M. Lesher, from part-time collection clerk, Bureau of Collections; to collection clerk II, Bureau of Collections, effective Jan. 3.
Ÿ Cynthia Dydra-Hatton, from sixth assistant district attorney, to fifth assistant district attorney, effective Jan. 1.
Ÿ James M. Lavelle, from fifth assistant district attorney, to fourth assistant district attorney, effective Jan. 1.
Ÿ Michael S. Greek, from fourth assistant district attorney, to third assistant district attorney, effective Jan. 1.
Ÿ Daniel E. Reis, from 911 operator, Communications Center, to senior dispatcher, Communications Center, effective Jan. 23.
Ÿ Jennifer Hunsicker, from programs technician, Planning and Development; to programs fiscal coordinator, Planning and Development, effective Jan. 1.