Commissioners OK county budget amid state impasse

County Commissioners approved a 2016 budget Tuesday based on assumed 2015 allotments as the state budget impasse prevented accurate figures from being calculated.

According to Financial Management Director Denise Elbell, the 2016 operating budget has not changed since it was first presented on Dec. 8. The budget makes up about $75.4 million with $3.5 million toward capital reserve for a total of about $78.9 million.

The budget also marks the sixth year of no tax millage increases, she said, leaving the county rate at 7.84 mills.

The county receives 60 percent of its total revenues in real estate tax, she said. According to budget documents, the 2016 tax revenue is estimated at about $26.5 million — one mill equals $3.4 million.

The remainder of the revenue is projected at $19.7 million in state revenue, $5.5 million in federal revenue, $3.3 million from department reimbursements and $8.4 million in fees, the budget said. This revenue has been consistent in previous years.

Chairman Steve Dershem verified that the county is still set to receive a tax and revenue anticipation note to fund the county for the immediate future. Regardless of what happens with the state budget, he said, even if a budget were signed today, county funding would hold out until state funds started flowing.

Commissioners approved the $10 million TRAN on Dec. 22, noting that the amount would carry the county through the end of February. Commissioners are expected to approve the final paperwork during next week’s meeting on Jan. 5 so funds are available on Jan. 6.

The note will be borrowed from Jersey Shore State Bank, Elbell said last week, which offered the best interest rate at 0.86 percent. Any funds borrowed through the note would need to be paid back by the end of the year, Dershem said.

The budget approval came less than an hour before a news conference hosted by Gov. Tom Wolf. According to The Associated Press, Wolf rejected parts of a $30.3 billion state budget plan but freed up more than $23 billion in emergency funding.

Wolf also chastised Republican lawmakers who “simply left town before finishing their jobs” during the conference.

“In doing this, I’m expressing the outrage that all of us should feel about the garbage the Republican legislative leaders have tried to dump on us,” he said of his line item veto. “This budget is wrong for Pennsylvania. And our legislators — the folks we elected to serve us — need to own up to this. They need to do their jobs.”

Tuesday marked day 182 of the budget impasse.

Commissioner Michael Pipe said he understands where the governor is coming from and that it was the right decision to let money flow to schools and human service agencies. But, he still shared the frustration that the house didn’t allow a vote on a compromise budget and instead left town before Christmas.

“This is his first budget,” Pipe said. “I think he needs to make an impression and leave his mark, so I understand why the line item veto was used.

“From my perspective, I’m glad we’re going to get some funding,” he said. “We wanted it six months ago, but it is what it is.”

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews