County OKs 2014 operating budget with no tax increase

Centre County’s taxes are holding steady.

The Board of Commissioners unanimously passed its 2014 county budget Tuesday without a tax increase. The operating budget totals $68,323,448, with $500,000 set aside for capital projects such as relocation of departments in the Willowbank Building and work on the Temple Court Building to give more space for court administration.

The board is using close to $300,000 from the general reserve to balance the budget, which will leave the county with 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.

There were no changes from the preliminary budget that the board passed Nov. 19, she said.

Commissioner Michael Pipe said some people have been wondering why the county still has to use money from the reserve to balance the budget now that Centre Crest is off the books.

But the deficit would be much higher if the county was still forced to offset losses for the nursing home, Commissioner Chris Exarchos said.

“Assuming Centre Crest was still part of this budget, I think I’d be safe in saying you’d see a $2 million draw-down in your reserves,” he said.

He said a tax increase would almost certainly be on the horizon if the nursing home wasn’t turned into a public nonprofit earlier this year. The 2014 taxes held steady at 7.84 mills, which equates to 78 cents on each $100 of assessed value of taxable property.

Exarchos said other factors played into the budget this year, such as the operating costs of the prison increasing by about $1 million, rising health care costs and increases in contributions to agencies.

“It’s not just Centre Crest that’s driving the costs,” he said. “There are other operations that we have to keep an eye on.”