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County asked to get financial house in order

Lycoming County Commissioners say they are aware of the less-than robust financial situation facing the county and claim they are working to solve those fiscal issues.

They took turns considering solutions after their regular weekly meeting Thursday following a Democratic Commissioner candidate’s remarks regarding what he termed “a very bleak picture of our county’s finances.”

Elliott Weiss referred to a pair of county documents, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2018 and the Multi-year Financial Plan dated Feb. 4, 2019.

He noted that county general government activities are in the hole more than $34 million.

Moreover, he pointed out that the general fund will show significant deficits annually over the next four years.

“The total projected deficit is $16.1 million. To put it mildly, that is a lot of red ink,” he said.

Weiss offered up several suggestions directed at county holdings.

He questioned county government operating out of the courthouse as well as three other downtown buildings.

“Let us consolidate the non-court functions in the Commonwealth/Sovereign Bank building and, to the extent we can, rent out Executive Plaza. The savings will be about a half million dollars a year,” he said.

Weiss suggested marketing the large parcel of county land near the landfill as well as property around the golf course.

He noted that previous county discussions have indicated that 300 lots at the White Deer Golf Course could be sold.

Finally, Weiss noted that the county farm might present “excellent building sites.”

Commissioner Tony Mussare said land development comes at a cost with taxes and other burdens placed on building owners and residents.

Of the suggestions offered, Commissioner Rick Mirabito said he would be inclined to sell the Executive Plaza building.

“Interest rates are low now,” he added.

Mussare said consolidating county services and agencies into fewer buildings is certainly worth considering.

Commissioner Jack McKernan said he could support Weiss’s suggestions, except for the county farm development concept.

“We are working on these things,” he said.

Weiss said the county’s financial situation cannot be blamed on anyone in particular.

“It would be easy politically to condemn the Republican members of this board of commissioners, but it would not be fair,” he said. “This problem didn’t occur over the last four years or even eight years. It represents the culmination of a long-term problem.”

Weiss said there could be more possible solutions and suggested holding meetings with community leaders to discuss county finances.

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