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Schuylkill votes no tax hike

Published December 17. 2009 05:00PM

An operating budget for 2010 was unanimously adopted by the three Schuykill County commissioners Wednesday at the courthouse in Pottsville, placing expenditure limits at $48,748,972 and to be off-set by projected new revenues of only $45,240,9816 (including real estate and per captia tax revenues).

This will necessitate taking $3,508,156 from the General Fund Unreserved Fund Balance (which was at $7.1 million) to balance the budget. The county's expenditures in 2010 are projected to be more than income anticipated revenues, which means deficit spending.

The good news is there will be no increase in taxes, no furloughing county employees at this time and no change in the hourly work week schedule.

They also may be able to finish the current year in the black instead of the predicted $1.2 million deficit. Paul Buber, one of the financial officers, explained that the sale of the 1912 building and land to Penn State University for the Schuylkill Campus netted more than $400,000, and a state grant for court expenses which was not expected to be received until next year arrived, adding more than $300,000 in revenue. It will not be known until sometime in January, when the last bill arrives for 2009 expenses, if the county finished with no debt.

To keep the expenditures down, the commissioners are imposing a freeze on salaries for all management and non-union employees, numbering about 200, continued review of positions and consolidation of jobs where feasible. Also, they imposed a freeze on hiring and restricted use of overtime and travel.

Still to be negotiated is a contract with about 600 members of the AFSCME union as their contract expired a year ago. Talks are to resume Friday.

Contracts with about 200 court related union employees expires at the end of this year.

Mantura Gallagher, chairperson, commented after the budget was passed that it was a "bittersweet day."

She said she was delighted a budget was adopted but sad that management and non union workers could not receive a pay increase.

But the commissioners were able to protect the taxpayers by not increasing the taxes. "We were well aware that many countians lost their job," she added.

Commissioners Francis McAndrew and Frank Staudenmeier echoed her observations. McAndrews added, "Hopefully things will improve not only in the county but throughout the nation."

Staudenmeier added, "This was a collective effort by the board, we worked together on behalf of the people of Schuylkill County."

Expenditures listed for various accounts were:

Funded Debt Account, $2,909,137 for debt service in accordance with the long-term debt payment schedules to be off-set by projected revenues of $2,420,049; Rest Haven Home and Hospital, $11,289,590; the 9-1-1 Communications, $5,188,102; Capitol Projects Accounts, $179,249; Workers' Compensation, $663,500, to be off-set projected revenues of $756,074; Special Programs (CDBG, DUI, STS, Child Development and others), $37,800,629, to be off-set by projected revenues of $35,264,076.

Special Revenue funds include:

Liquid Fuels, $1,748,350, expenditures, $608,000, 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 Services, $7,004,407, expenditures, $7,004,407, revenue; Drug and Alcohol Agency, $2,020,555 expenditures, $2,020,555 revenue; Mental Health and Mental Retardation Program, $7,464,684 expenditures, $7,464,684 revenue; Children and Youth Services Agency, $19,518,152 expenditures, $19,518,152 revenue and Domestic Relations Department, $2,159,785 expenditures, $2,283,660, revenue.

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