No-tax-hike budget gets approval

WELLSBORO – The Tioga County commissioners unanimously approved a no-tax-increase budget during their meeting Tuesday.

Adopted were the $17.8 million general fund, the $48 million retirement budget, the $675,000 liquid fuels funds budget and the $15.1 million human services budget.

Millage will remain at 6.75 mills per $1,000 of assessed value.

Commissioner Erick Coolidge said that the general fund budget is about $1.5 million less than last year’s budget, mainly because of reduction of staff creating less in retirement contributions, and “the economy has gotten better so we are making more money on our investments.”

“Our asset managers are doing a good job,” Coolidge added.

The Human Resources budget is about $2 million less than it was last year, which, according to department Director Max Harrison, is because, “we no longer have Highland Chocolates, though it is still running and employing the same folks, and we no longer run the outpatient clinic in Mansfield, but it is still providing services in Tioga County.”

“We were cut 10 percent by the state government in the first year, but we were able to increase services by becoming a block grant county,” he added.

One other reduction in expenses came from the day care program which has been joined by state mandate to Bradford County, and “we also shut down the kitchen at residential services and we are getting all their food from the prison, which will save us around $60,000 annually.”

“We were able to negotiate a block grant fund when funding was being cut. There also were a lot of adjustments with due diligence by Max in saving jobs. We are working together at the county level,” Coolidge added.

Commissioners also:

* Approved $100,000 from Landfill Escrow Account for County Farmland Preservation in 2014. According to Tioga County Planner and Jim Weaver said there are 13 farms in program totalling 1,909 acres.

* Approved a resolution recommending designating Route 15 as Interstate 99 by the Federal Highway Administration. Such a designation would transfer over some of the costs incurred at interchanges such as lighting and signage.

* Opened and tabled bids for the county’s new 911 tower and site work for further review. Saber Industries was the only bid for the tower, at $54,406. There were no bids received to construct the shelter for tower so emergency services Director Dave Cohick was granted authority to look for state contract providers. Five other companies sent in pre-qualifier documents for construction of the tower itself and also were tabled.

* Approved a one-year microwave radio system maintenance agreement with Motorola for $86,000.

* Approved a Penn State Extension office agreement to help fund the office, including cost of an administrative assistant at $29,100 in 2014, $29,870 in 2015 and $30,766 in 2016.

* Approved authorization for EADS Architects Inc. to prepare the construction contract and bid documents for competitive bidding of the county prison food services addition project.

* Approved an amendment to cover the cost of a new generator for the kitchen project, $14,500.

* Approved an agreement with ThyssenKrupp for elevator maintenance in the courthouse, $1,110 per quarter.

* Approved funding of $13,270 from Act 13 funds for “I Am Responding” software to be used at ambulance and fire departments throughout the county. Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital will contribute $3,000 for a total of $16,270. This is a one-time, one-year effort to assist with implementation of the software to reduce emergency response time.

* Approved a reimbursement agreement with Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission for the first six months of 2014. The county will loan them $5,088 monthly to pay for the Career Link office space and will be reimbursed when the funding comes through between 90 and 120 days after each payment.

* Promoted Nancy Kreger to administrative officer II in the fiscal department for $57,288 per year.

* Announced the commissioner’s annual organizational meeting will be at 10 a.m. Jan. 6, and their first regular meeting will be at 10 a.m. Jan. 14, both at the courthouse.