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No tax increase in new budget

Published November 18. 2010 05:00PM

A preliminary budget for 2011 was adopted by the Schuylkill County Commissioners at their work session Wednesday at the courthouse in Pottsville with no increase in taxes although the budget calls for spending to be greater than the receipts and to balance it monies will have to be drawn utilizing a deficit funding mode. Final adoption will be end of December.

The budget calls for expenditures of $47,510,636 and to be off-set by projected new revenues of $44,076,074 (including real estate and per capita tax revenues), and to balance the budget $3,434,562 is anticipated to be drawn from the general fund unreserved fund balance which currently is at $10 million. How the county will end 2010 is still uncertain as all the bills to be paid will not be in until early in January, but according to Commissioner Chairperson Mantura Gallagher it will not be the $3.5 million deficit as predicted early this year. But there will be a deficit.

The real estate tax millege remains at 11.98 mills and includes, 11.42 mills for general fund account (114.2 cents on each $100 of assessed valuatian); .56 of a mill for funded debt account (5.6 cents on each $100 of assessed valuation) and a $5 per capita tax on each individual 18 years or older.

This year the county realized an increase of assessed valuation on properties at $13 million from appeals taken mostly by school districts to increase valuations on properties in their districts, however, many of the decisions of the Schuylkill County Assessment Appeals Board, are now being challenged in the county court.

The budget for funded debt expenditures are set at $2,707,062 but the projected anticipated revenues are $1,674,673.

The preliminary budget for Rest Haven Home and Hospital the expenditures are anticipated at $11,456,400 to be off-set by projected operating revenues to match.

The budget for 9-1-1 Communication Center the expenditures are projected at $4,652,347 to be off-set by projected revenues matching the expenditures.

The preliminary budget for Capital Project Accounts the anticipated expenditures are estimated at $679,249 to be offset by new revenues matching the expenditures.

The preliminary budget to cover worker's compensation the estimated expenditures are $653,500 to be off-set by projected revenues of $717,730.

The preliminary budget for conduit accounts such as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), DUI Program, Schuylkill Transportation System (STS) bus line and Child Development Program and others the anticipated expenditures are projected at $32,639,941 with the revenue offset projected at $29,080,250.

The preliminary budget for special revenue accounts is as follows:

Liquid fuels, $1,492,485 expenditures and $706,000 revenues; Demolition, $257,450 expenditures and $304,800 revenues; Farmland Preservation, expenditures and revenues, $22,066; Human Services Complex, expenditures and revenues at $291,810; other agency funds, expenditures, $3,839,570 and revenues, $3,784,610; Office of Senior Services, expenditures and revenues at $7,107,997; Drug and Alcohol Agency, expenditures and revenues at $2,357,473; Mental Health Program, expenditures and revenues at $7,230,270; Childlren and Youth Services Agency, expenditures and revenues at $17,427,960 and Domestic Relations Department, expenditures, $2,063,512 and revenues, $2,203,595.

Fiscal constraint

Mark J. Scarbinsky, county adminiistrator, commented, "As everyone knows, we continue to struggle in light of the present economic crisis and have difficulty firmly grasping definitive direction for the county's fiscal future. Fiscal restraint has continued to be a focal point."

He continued, "The board's strategy is to focus on core priorities while adhering to state and federal service mandates which must be maintained. The limitatations placed on the county by legislative statute restricts us to only revenues from real estate and specific programmatic allocations, which leaves very little latitude for the county to develop counter measures for offsetting basic operational increases."

Paul Buber, financial officer, commented, "With respect to the general fund revenues being projected at $44,076,074, this is $1,599,.980 or 3.5 percent less than the 2010 adjusted budget for general fund revenues. The change is attributed to a decrease in state and federal grants, however, the general fund revenues have remained stable for the last couple of years.

In summary, the 2011 preliminary budgetary revenues for the general fund are projected to be about $3,434,562 or 7.8 percent less than what is needed to fund the 2011 budgetary expenditures for the general fund. During these diffcult times, we are suggesting we draw down on the unreserved fund balance to cover the shortfall and to maintain the real estate millage at 11.98 mills."

Decreases noted

Paul Straka, budget director, commented, "It is unrealistic to assume that expenses will not increase in certain areas but I am happy to report that a few positive decreases have occurred. Our healthcare expense has dropped to a 6.5 percent increase compared to 9.7 percent this year; workers compensation expenses continue to trend downward; we are now beginning to realize savings on our salary and employee benefit expenses, which is a direct result of the job consolidation and eliminations; the energy upgrade policy continues to provide savings throughout the courthouse, prison and Rest Haven Home; the county is using 18.5 percent less electricity and the overall heating savings are projected at 10 percent.

"The general fund expenses have decreased by 3.4 percent but we are still operating under deficit spendings. It is critical that we continue to scrutinize all expenses, eliminate wasteful spending and come up with new and creative ideas to increase revenue."

No tax increase

The three commissioners, Gallagher, Francis McAndrew and Frank Staudenmeier complimented the department heads for stepping forward and presenting budgets that are cost effective, prudent and that show either minimal or no increases in overall expenditures for the upcoming year.

Gallagher said when they met with the elected officials of the varioius departments they announced there would be no tax increase. "We didn't do it for political reasons as two of use (Gallagher and McAndrew) are not seeking re-election. We did it for moral reasons."

Staudenmeier had announced he would be running for re-election.

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