No Tax Increase in Wyoming County 2012 Budget
By D.C. Koviack
The Wyoming County Commissioners announced at their Tuesday morning meeting that the 2012 budget was preliminarily complete and is now available for review. They also noted that the $13,002,316 budget does not include any tax increases. Two areas of the budget saw rises in costs: health insurance and the county’s bond issue. The latter had been re-financed, which saved the county money in previous years. However that savings has now ended.
There were also the usual necessary increases in salaries and the cost of doing business, but according to County Administrator Bill Gaylord, no positions have been cut and no significant tightening of the purse strings has been required. There is a question, he noted, about the funding of both the Penn State Extension and the county’s Day Care System. Both of these departments are allegedly being merged with other counties’ services in an initiative by the state. However, the move has not been greeted with favor, largely because class seven Wyoming County would be lumped in with much larger third class counties under the state scheme.
“It makes no sense at all,” noted Commissioner Judy Mead on Tuesday. If the re-structuring proposed by the state does go into effect, it is possible that increased costs for transportation between Wyoming County and new regional offices could increase the cost for some of these departments. That, in turn, would impact the 2012 budget.
On a brighter note, the county has seen real progress in diminishing the number of juveniles entering placement through the court system, largely due to an ARD (accelerated rehabilitation department) type effort on the part of Juvenile Probation and the county’s President Judge, Russell Shurtleff. These juveniles, usually first-time offenders, are given the opportunity of working at a community service type job and following other requirements set by the court in order to have the charges against them dropped and eventually their records expunged. “It is working very well,” noted commissioner Tony Litwin on Tuesday.
Another segment to the budget puzzle is the fact that the state still owes the county approximately $208,000 for the 2010 and 2011 salary of the county’s DA. Under a new law passed several years ago, the DA position went from part-time to full-time, with the state pledging to pay the county 65 percent of the increased salary. The burden to the county under this plan was practically nil in that it continued to pay about what it had paid for a part-time DA; the remainder of the new full-time salary was paid by the state. The problem is that the state has not been timely in its reimbursement to the county for its share of the DA’s salary. “They’ve caught up to 2009 now,” Gaylord noted wryly on Tuesday.
The commissioners noted that a number of homes destroyed by the September floods will mean less tax dollars coming in. However, the new Super Walmart and the new hotel have offset that loss to some extent. The opening of a second hotel early in 2012 will mean further tax revenue as well. The former Walmart property has been sold, the commissioners learned on Tuesday.
A stone company owned by the Sherwood family is said to be opening on the site; part of the building will also be leased to other tenants.