Solicitor criticises controller
A resolution was adopted by the Schuylkill County Commissioners to borrow $2.5 million from the county's Debt Service Fund to be transferred to the county's General Fund cash account, in action taken at Wednesday's public meeting held at the courthouse in Pottsville.
Controller Melinda Kantner continued to question the legality of this transaction. She raised it at last week's work session.
County Solicitor Erik Mika claimed it was legal stating he received an opinion from the bond counsellors. But Kantner insisted, claiming the purpose of the Debt Services fund is to account for the accumulation of resources for and the payment of general long-term debt principal and interest. The financial transaction involves not only the commissioners, who must approve the transactions, but also involves the controller's office due to the fact the controller must book the transaction.
After the meeting Mica held a press conference and blasted the controller of over stepping her authority. Mica said the controller thinks she has supervision power in the commissioner's office which is not true as her duties are paying the bills. "She is not a commissioner. She always raizes a problem but never has a solution.," Mica added.
Mark Scarbinsky, the fiscal administrator and Paul Strata, the budget director, participated in the press conference. Strata said with the tightness of the budget the county has to look at innovations to keep costs down and is looking for cuts whereever it can. Scarbinsky admitted this manner of funding was never tried before but believes other counties have done it.
Paul Buber, the fiscal manager, was the one who came up with this proposal to use the money from the Debt Service to pay the bills from the general fund until tax monies start arriving. Tax bills are not sent out until March. In past years the county borrowed money from a bank through a tax and revenue anticipation note, pointing out the county can save $30,000 in interest payments. The plan calls for the $2.5 million to be repaid to the Dept Service Fund on or before June 30.
Like many other counties Schuylkill was placed in a fiscal bind because the state has not come through with its grants for the mandated programs the state ruled counties have to maintain.
In the Children and Youth Services Account the county's share under the budget for the year was $4 million but the county has already turned over more than $2 million to keep the agency operational because the state has not come through with funds. "We can't abandon the children," Scarbinsky said.