Commissioners Pass Preliminary Budget

No Tax Increase for 2017

by LaKeshia Knarr

ccc-logoLOCK HAVEN – Property owners in Clinton County will not see an increase in their taxes in 2017.

After adopting a $33.4 million budget that required a 12 percent increase in property taxes for 2016, Clinton County commissioners unanimously approved a $42.4 million budget for next year that does not require a tax increase this Thursday.

The approved preliminary budget will be posted online at www.clintoncountypa.com for review and on public display at the Garden Building for 20 days. Commissioners intend to adopt the final budget at their Dec. 22 meeting.

Any changes made before adoption of the final budget must not exceed an increase of 10 percent of the overall preliminary budget, and no tax increase can be levied, according to Commissioner Pete Smeltz.

The budget includes at least three new positions for the county: an assistant chief assessor, a human resources specialist and a training/compliance coordinator for the Clinton County Correctional Facility. Jann Meyers, county chief clerk, said there were a lot of requests from departments for new positions, however many were not accommodated.

After announcing the county is also in the process of purchasing a building next to the Piper Aviation Museum at 100 Mercer Drive, Lock Haven, for $800,000 (plus $150,000 for contents), the commissioners said they intend to take out a general obligation bond to fund that project, as well as courthouse improvements and updates to the computer-aided-design system at the 911 Center.

That bond is expected to come in around roughly $16 million, Smeltz said. That bond amount is included in the budget, however specifics will not be determined until after the commissioners’ meeting with a bond counselor on Monday.

Revenue sources outlined in the preliminary budget include $12,145,032 from property taxes (up $119,239 from 2016); $7,913,343 from service fees (up $316,713); $6,678,514 from intergovernmental sources (down $5,500); $6,600,000 from sale of bonds; $2,549,034 from miscellaneous sources (down $19,995); $1,543,770 from the fund balance; $60,755 from interest and rents (up $20,178); $37,200 from licenses and permits (down $1,000); $384,000 from hotel taxes (up $144,000); and $4,533,246 from “other financing sources.”

County Chief Assessor Keith L. Yearick projects total property value within the county to increase roughly $14.4 million over 2016 to over $2,059,918,272 in 2017. That will provide a net increase of $84,239 in tax revenue for 2017, with property taxes along comprising 28 percent of the county’s revenue.

An increase in the payment in lieu of taxes rate was approved by the state Legislature this year and is expected to bring an additional $250,000 in revenue to the county as well.

The budget includes increases in wages and salaries (up $246,730), health benefits (up $232,058), operating costs (up $330,258), and debt service (up $928,817), with salaries/wages and operating costs comprising 54 percent of total expenses for 2017. The county anticipates $11,553,827 in wages and salaries; $11,538,574 in operating costs; $6,810,248 in capital outlay; $5,240,612 in employee benefits; $2,768,387 in debt service; and $4,533,246 for “other” expenses.

According to the budget summary narrative provided by the commissioners, Clinton County received an AA- bond rating from Standard & Poor’s, the highest rating possible for counties and municipalities.

Without a tax increase, a property valued at $125,000 will continue to see an annual tax of $750.