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"Financial team" explains budget process to Schuylkill board

Published December 17. 2009 05:00PM

The three men who are called the "financial team" were complimented by the Schuylkill County commissioners for coming up with a budget which did not increase taxes or cause layoffs of employees.

The team is composed of Mark Scarbinsky, Paul Straka and Paul Buber, which was formed by the commissioners this year and precipitated a lawsuit from Controller Melinda Kantner for taking Buber, who was an accountant in her office. Comments on the 2010 final budget were made to the board by the team.

Scarbinsky said, "The preliminary budget for 2010 presented to the board in November projected a deficit of approximately $3.5 million. This deficit had at one point over the past 30 days grown to greater than $4 million when additional unforseen expenses were calculated. As per the board's strategy for fiscal constraint, we attempted to eliminate additional costs by working with the court, elected row office officials, our management team and agency directors and have attempted to stay the course reflecting sound management strategies to lower costs where feasible.

"The board's strategy for rightsizing of government will allow for implementing operational efficiencies and trigger closer monitoring of all employee positions. At this time furloughs have been avoided, however, they will be considered throughout the new calendar year in response to the general economy and revenue levels.

"It is only through the prudent fiscal policies of this administration that funds are available for drawdown to balance the budget. We have projected using the Unrestricted Fund Balance to complete the balancing of the budget. However, this particular strategy is a one time option and decisions as to alternatives for handling the structural issues of salary and benefits costs will be addressed early next calendar year. There are plans for continued talks with our union representatives to address continued rising costs associated with the compensation and benefit packages and a complete review of the employee complement level to determine adequate levels of employment necessary for the prudent operation of county government."

Paul Buber commented, "With respect to the general fund, revenues have not changed significantly from the preliminary budget to the final budget. The total change was an increase of about $96,000 and this was due to some cooperation from one or two of the row offices to increase some of their revenues for next year. There have been no significant changes in revenues for the other funds."

Buber addressed the shortfall of $3.5 million for the general fund.

"We are drawing funds from an unrestricted fund balance to cover this shortfall for next year. As a county, we are very fortunate to be in a financial position to be able to do so as many surrounding counties are having more difficult times. This approach has an upside in that it will allow the board to avoid a tax increase and it will also buy the board some time, however, the approach also has a downside. The downside is that it does not solve the underlying problem which the 2010 budget predicted on the general fund which will be spending more money than what it will be taking in and warns us as we move forward in the new year that we will need to explore some strategies."

Paul Straka presented the budget to the commissioners and thank all department heads and employees for joining in to help reach a workable budget without overrunning costs and need for adding more tax burden to the residents of the county.

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