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Budget spat not affecting municipalities

Although the state continues to operate without a budget, municipalities and Centre County as a whole are not fearing a fiscal pinch just yet.

Pennsylvania is more than a month into the new fiscal year without a budget, as Gov. Tom Wolf and state legislators continue discussions. Wolf is calling for higher taxes to fund schools and human services and has repeatedly rejected Republican-led proposals, describing them as shams and insults.

For Centre County government and municipalities, working without a state budget is just business as usual.

State College spokeswoman Courtney Hayden said the borough doesn’t get a significant amount of funds from the state.

Some projects rely on grant funding from the state, she said, such as PennDOT projects or through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Funding through these agencies is coming through as planned — for now.

“We’re always interested during budget discussions in the different type of taxing the state would like to do,” Hayden said, “like alcohol taxing. Also anything related to how taxing for school districts would affect our residents, since they’re seeing property taxes coming from the county, the school district and their municipality.”

Borough Manager Ralph Stewart said Bellefonte was in no pinch either, saying infrastructure projects that rely on community development block grant funding were on track.

“We do get state money for things like liquid fuels, but this won’t delay any current projects,” he said. “Funding has come through for the current projects this year.”

County Administrator Tim Boyde said the longer the process plays out, the more concerns and constraints are created. But for now, he said, there are no imminent threats to county services.

“We’ve made payments through the end of the fiscal year,” he said. “In August, we’ll start to see bills come in for other human services, but we have funds in the general fund to make payments.”

If the situation isn’t resolved by September, he said, the county still has reserves and the ability to look at a transitional revenue anticipation note — essentially the ability to secure a line of credit to continue payments at a minimal interest rate.

County staff is looking at expenditures and where purchasing delays can be made, he said, as well how critical certain staff positions are to day-to-day operations.

“We’re asking if we can get through day to day while carrying a vacancy or a short period of time,” he said.

Counties face delayed budgets more often than they would like, he said, but it’s not uncommon. Boyde compared it to an emergency fire drill — being prepared and ready to move forward.

“It’s always an exercise in making sure you’re fiscally on top of the situation,” he said. “Fortunately, we don’t have to do it every year, but every once in a while, it’s nice to make sure you can do it.”

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