Commissioner open to tax hike if certain items cut

With the Lycoming County 2017 budget vote just over a week away, one commissioner said if certain programs were cut he would be open to voting for a tax increase.

“We can’t continue to move on with this deficit budgeting,” Commissioner Rick Mirabito said.

Mirabito is in favor of eliminating the GEO day reporting center as well as eliminating 20 county positions, not through layoffs but by simply not replacing employees who leave.

Additionally, Mirabito said the county should use its hotel tax for recreational programs such as the White Deer Golf Complex, the Community Arts Center and the Thomas T. Taber Museum of the Lycoming County Historical Society, which he said are funded through general revenue funds.

Mirabito went on to clarify that if the county were to make these changes, and sell off some excess land, he would advocate for a 0.5 millage tax increase for 2017, that would decrease the deficit to what he figured would be roughly $4.8 million.

The current deficit for the 2017 budget is $9.7 million.

Commissioner Tony Mussare said he is against eliminating the day reporting center as he said it has helped reduce recidivism and diminish the prison population over the past two years since it began operating.

“When you start taking away tools to deal with the drug addictions from the courts, we’re setting ourselves up for failure,” Mussare said.

The contract was signed with GEO in July of 2014 as a solution for recidivism in the county and to eliminate the need to build a new prison, which at the time was priced at roughly $40 million, according to Mussare.

According to Mussare, “GEO really worked” by helping to reduce the prison population and reduce the need for the county to send overcrowding prisoners to other counties. Currently there are 58 empty beds at the prison.

Despite the commissioners differences, they agreed that a decision must to be made by the Dec. 8 final budget vote.