Centre County commissioners OK preliminary budget without tax increase

Centre County residents likely can look forward to another year without a county tax increase.

The Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a preliminary budget at its meeting Tuesday with more than $68 million in expenditures and using nearly $300,000 from the unassigned general fund to balance the budget.

The county will have a projected unassigned general fund balance of just more than $3 million at the end of next year, Director of Financial Management Denise Elbell said.

The projected revenues and expenses are lower than last year partially because the Centre Crest nursing home is off the books now that it is a nonprofit.

Commissioner Chris Exarchos said that likely helped balance the budget because if previous trends were to hold true, the county would have had to cover additional operational costs.

“That’s a deficit we didn’t need to budget,” he said.

With some capital projects completed, such as the 911 system upgrade and the Centre Crest transition, the county will be able to focus a budgeted $500,000 on other projects such as relocation of departments in the Willowbank Building and work on the Temple Court Building to give more space for court administration.

Though the building hasn’t been repurposed since it was purchased, Chairman Steve Dershem said there isn’t an immediate rush to get it completed. The state passed a bill earlier this year to allow counties moving up from fifth class to fourth class because of population shifts to keep the prothonotary and clerk of courts as one position.

Previously, those counties had to separate the positions, but Dershem said the law provides for additional flexibility.

He added that with a pending construction project that would demolish the Hotel Do De and Garman Theatre in Bellefonte, the county needs to work with developer Ara Kervandjian on access points behind the Temple Court Building.

Dershem also said that the commissioners need time to plan ahead for long-term court needs, even if they might be hard to predict.

“It’s hard to envision what the court system might look like even 10 years from now,” he said.

The public will have a chance to review and react to the budget before final adoption, which is expected at a December meeting.