This may be the year that the Schuylkill County Commissioners will have to dip heavily into a surplus fund, officially known as "Unrestricted Fund Balance" in order to balance the budget for 2010 and also to cover the cost of a deficit occuring from this year's operating budget. Former boards of commissioners have build the fund which now stands at $7.1 million. While the financial team grapples with reaching a balanced budget when final adoption will take place in December the commissioners made it clear they don't anticipate increasing real estate taxes.

At Thursday's public meeting held at the courthouse in Pottsville, Budget Director Paul Straka read the resolution which fixed the proposed 2010 real estate millage at 11.98 mills to include 11.42 mills for the general fund account (114.2 cents on each $100 of assessed valuation; .56 mills for the funded debt account (5.6 cents on each $100 of assessed valuation and a $5 per capita tax. The proposal calls for taking $3.5 from the Unrestricted Fund to balance the expenditures in the general fund and the resolution was adopted unanimously by the three commissioners, Mantura Gallagher, chairperson and Francis McAndrew and Frank Staudnemeier. The is also a need to take from the Unresitricted Fund at least $1.5 million to cover a deficit for this year's budget.

Expenditures for the general fund is set at $48,695,22 and to off-set projected revenue shortages the proposal is to dip into the General fund Unristricted Fund Balance for $3,550,683. This unrestricted fund's practice use is set by the GASB (Governmental Accounting Standards Board) and its proposed use is to "maintain a prudent level of financial resources to protect against reducing service levels or raising taxes and fees because of a temporary revenue shortfall or unpredicted one-time expenditures.

Also the projected expenditures of the current budget shows there will be a deficit at the end of the year, currently at $1.5 million, and it may be less or greater and the final total will not be known until year end. This year's deficit can be blamed on the sagging economy as the projected income did not materialize, especially from interest earnings from investments made by the county treasurer's office and anticipated revenues from the state.

Straka said, "We cut things to the bone and are still short of balancing it but we have a few more weeks to work on it to reach a balance budget and avoid taking funds from the unrestricted fund." He reported travel expenses have been drastically cut and those that must travel must first receive approval from the Mark Scarbinsky, the county administrator. Many professional services are also being cut and capitol costs are being drastically reduced and other costs reductions are being sought. County officials were meeting today with union officials who represent non-court employees as their contract expires at the end of the year to gain certain options they have in mind.

The resolution adopted also sets expenditures for the Funded Debt Account at $2,809,137 for debt service to be off-set by projected revenus of $2,420,049. The budget for the Enterprise Fund Account (Rest Haven Home and Hospital) for nursng home operations is set at $11,289,500 to be offe-set by projected operating revenues of $11,289,500. The budget for the 9-1-1 Communications is set at $5,171,9762 to be off-set by projected revenues of $5,171,962. The budget for Capital Project Accounts are set at $179,249 to be off-set by new revenus of $179,249.

The budget for the Internal Service Fund (Workers' Compensation) is set at $663,500 and is to be off-set by projected revenues of $756,074 and the budget for Conduit Accounts (such as Community Development Block Grant, Schuylkill Transportation System, Child Develpment and Dui agencies) is set at $37,800,629 to be off-set from projected new revenues of $35,800,629.

The budget for the Special Revenue Accounts (office and department functions) is set as follows:

Liquid Fuels, $1,748,350 in expenditures and $608,000 anticipated revenue; demolition, $362,334 expenditures, $468,684 revenue; farmland preservation, $26,572 expenditures, $26,572 revenue; Human Service Complex, $288,055 expenditures, $288,055 revenue; other agency funds, $5,151,309 expenditures, $5,141,697 revenue; Office of Senior Service, $7,021,468 expenditures, $7,021,468 revenue; Drug and Alcohol Agency, $2,.027,039 expenditures, $2,027,034 revenue; Mental Health and Mental Retardation Program, $7,464,684 expenditures, $7,464,684 revenue; Children and Youth Agency, $19,535,758 expenditures, $19,535,758 revenue and Domestic Relations Department, $2,163,660 expenditures, $2,283,660 revenue.

Bank Loan

The commissioners approved a motion made by Financial Officer Paul Buber to borrow up to $6 million on the basis of the sale of a tax and revenue anticipate note in anticipation of receipt of current taxes and current revenues on an invited sale basis. Buber explained, "It was first planned to borrow $8 million but because of depressed interest rates the costs of borrowing this year is much greater and instead of borrowing a lump sum funds will be drawn on an as needed basis and paid back incrementally out of the cash flow." Banks are asked to submit their proposals by Decemer 4 and the board will take action on December 16 when the final budget will be adopted.