State College

COG General Forum reviews 2016 budget

The Centre Region Council of Governments General Forum reviewed a summary budget Monday for the upcoming 2016 fiscal year.

The budget process began in March, COG Executive Director Jim Steff said, with the goal of limiting overall municipal contribution increases to only 3 percent. A draft program plan was then created and distributed to all the participating municipalities for review and comment.

Following the comments, he said, a detailed budget was created, written page by page by the COG finance committee.

“We had a great crew of people working this year,” finance committee Chairman Bud Graham said. “We have a very attentive budget committee who read the budget very thoroughly with a lot of discussion.”

The goals of the 2016 budget included maintaining a 3 percent increase, Steff said, completing the scheduled park projects — including the Whitehall Road Regional Park scheduled for construction in 2016 — maintaining the code agency as a self-sustaining entity and setting the groundwork for an increasing level of community donations.

Most notably, the COG 2016 budget is calculated at about $21.3 million, a decrease of about $6.7 million from the 2015 budget of $27.9 million. Steff credited the decrease to two factors.

First, he said, it was thought that more money was going to be spent on the construction of the Whitehall Road park in 2016. The 2015 budget contained $5.4 million for park completion, while the 2016 budget is only $1.8 million.

Also, he said, the amount of anticipated code revenue dropped from $2.4 million in 2015 to $1.1 million in 2016. Steff credited that to the large amount of construction that took place in the Centre Region in 2015.

“In the end of October, we had almost $235 million in new dollars in permits and new construction underway,” he said. “For a little town in central Pennsylvania, that’s a lot of money.”

Keeping within the 3 percent limit, municipal contributions are slated to increase from $6.3 million in 2015 to $6.4 million in 2016, according to the 2016 budget. This increase of $155,835 is attributed to changes in the COG funding formula factors and the package of services the municipalities receive from COG.

The individual municipality increases break down as 2.53 percent for the State College borough, 2.23 percent for College Township, 3.9 percent for Ferguson Township, 10.72 percent for Halfmoon Township, 2.74 percent for Harris Township and 0.03 percent for Patton Township.

The large increase for Halfmoon was attributed in the budget to an increased usage of the Schlow Centre Region Library, an increase to the library capital fund and a 16.68 percent staffing increase.

Municipal operating shares are expected to increase for different COG-led initiatives, according to the 2016 budget. Shares for the Schlow Centre Region Library operating budget are expected to increase 2.2 percent, as county and state contributions are expected to remain the same. Contributions to the capital budget are proposed to increase from $20,000 to $80,000 to prevent a complete depletion of the capital budget by 2020.

Municipal shares for fire protection are projected to increase 3.8 percent for the operating budget and 5.3 percent for the capital budget, according to the 2016 budget. One of the larger tickets on the budget, COG is seeking $695,500 to replace a 1996 KME fire engine.

The largest increase in shares lies in the Centre Region Senior Center, the budget said, which is seeking a 29 percent increase, or a total of $136,054, due to a recent move from downtown State College to the Nittany Mall.

While COG is seeking more than $1.7 million for completion of the Whitehall Road park, according to the budget, municipal shares for debt service in the regional parks capital budget are expected to decrease from $416,800 to $400,000.

A detailed summary of the budget can be found at the COG website at www.crcog.net.

The forum approved a motion to send the budget on to the municipalities for comment. Municipal officials will have until Nov. 13 to submit comments.

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