Blair passes budget without tax hikes | News, Sports, Jobs


Blair County Commissioners, meeting on Tuesday, unanimously approved the 2022 budget, listing spending of more than $ 58 million but maintaining property taxes at 4,097 vintages – the same as this year.

Commissioners Chairman Bruce R. Erb said the hardest part of budgeting this year was maintaining efficiency while covering growing expenses.

For example, planned spending in 2022 has increased by over $ 794,000 to reach $ 58.2 million.

On the efficiency side, a budget summary prepared by the commissioners highlighted that the 2022 budget represents the third consecutive budget year in which the increase in spending has been less than 2%.

Erb said the county has a major source of local tax revenue, property tax.

In 2022, the property tax will include 3.7 miles for the General Fund, up slightly from the mileage imposed this year, but a decrease (to 0.355 thousand) for debt service.

County Administrator Nicole Hemminger and Director of Finance Jennifer Sleppy said the decrease is due to the county refinancing one loan and repaying another small loan.

The remaining allowance includes 0.012 of a mill for county parks and recreation, and 0.021 of a mill for libraries, the same as this year.

Commissioner Amy E. Webster said she was delighted the county was able to stay the course on property taxes, but said she would continue to explore ways to improve efficiency and reduce spending in the region. within the departments under its control.

Webster has studied the history of county spending over the past decade and noted during this time the budget “Has increased considerably”.

She is trying to find out why and take steps to further increase efficiency.

The county has been able to balance its budget over the past two years with help from Congress.

Erb noted that this year the county was able to use funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act of 2020.

In an effort to balance the 2022 budget, the commissioners also plan to inject $ 1.8 million from the 2021 US bailout.

The county will receive $ 23 million from the ARP, and $ 1.8 million can be used to help balance the county’s budget, Erb said.

Much of the ARP money will be used to provide broadband service throughout Blair County.

He said the annual funding of $ 1.8 million will be available for the next three years.

In addition to the property tax, which will bring in $ 31.9 million, the county forecasts revenues of:

* Federal and state reimbursement, $ 17.2 million.

* Fee, $ 3.4 million.

* Overdue taxes, $ 1.4 million.

* “Other” income of $ 3.8 million through numerous offices and programs.

While commissioners approved the 2022 budget on Tuesday, they still have many decisions to make that will affect the budget.

Among those decisions are three employment contracts – two with the United Mine Workers of America, representing workers linked to the courts, and one with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, representing prison workers.

Erb did not comment on the ongoing negotiations.

Another wage issue concerns employees in non-union counties.

During budget discussions, Commissioner Laura O. Burke argued that the county should approve general wage increases of 2% for all non-union employees.

But in July, some non-union workers received a 2% increase.

Erb and Webster prefer to grant the 2% hike only to non-union employees who did not receive the mid-year pay hike.

The expected cost of the general increase would be $ 56,760, compared to $ 30,494 for the lower option.

This issue will be decided by the Blair County Wages Board, which includes the three commissioners and the controller AC Stickel.

The largest spending slated for 2022 will be on wages paid to county workers, amounting to $ 17.3 million.

An additional $ 14.8 million will cover “professional services” such as legal fees, audits, and other services provided by people and businesses outside of county government.

Medical insurance is another big expense for the county at $ 5.5 million, while contributions to the pension fund will be $ 4.3 million, an increase from previous years, but still lower. as recommended by the county actuary.

The county plans to spend $ 2.7 million for debt service.

Broken down differently, Budget 2022 provides for spending of $ 16.2 million for child protection services; $ 11.8 million to operate the prison; $ 2.9 million for courts, $ 7.5 million in administrative expenses and $ 6.6 million for row office operations.

Probation will cost the county $ 2.6 million while running the offices of the District Judicial Judges will cost $ 2.4 million.

“Various” programs like Veterans Affairs, Emergency Management Agency, Planning Commission and others are expected to cost $ 2.4 million.

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