Commissioners close to finalizing county budget, fear money woes

The 2017 Lycoming County preliminary budget will be finalized by the end of the day on Monday, according to the commissioners, but the process is far from over.

“We’re going to continue working on it, but we needed to get something done that we can put out in a document,” said Commissioner Jack McKernan. He added that the commissioners will continue to fine-tune the budget up until they vote on it in mid December.

“At that point is when we will decide if we think we need a tax increase,”  McKernan said.

Monday’s finalized document will go to the county Fiscal Services department and eventually go out for public comment the second week of November.

As the cost of county business continues to increase, McKernan said it is getting harder to find the funds to pay for everything. Originally the budget was short around $10 million, but with a year-long postponement of a county landfill project the county has shaved about $6 million from the budget’s current deficit. The commissioners hope to make more cuts over the next couple months to continue bringing costs down.

According to Matt McDermott, the budget numbers are starting to look better as cost projections for various capital projects are tallied.

A large portion of the county’s expenses go into health care and the county pension system, Commissioner Tony Mussare said.

“Those are two huge problems we face every year,” Mussare said.

“Our health care is out of control,” Mussare added, saying when he became a commissioner in 2012 the county health care payment was a little over $6 million, now it is $11.5 million.

“This is unsustainable,” he said. “We cannot continue down this road.”

Mussare added that the county also pays $2 million into the pension system each year.

“It would  be nice if those numbers would stabilize,” Mussare said.

In other business, the commissioners unanimously approved $526,998 in Community Development Block Grant Program funds, of which $250,675 will go to the county and the rest will be distributed to various municipal projects.

The commissioners also approved the purchase of a $521,604 articulating wheel loader for the Lycoming County Landfill.

The commissioners present at the meeting were McKernan, Mussare and Rick Mirabito.

The next meeting will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday.