Lycoming County’s budget standing cause for future concern

Lycoming County is staring at another no-tax-hike budget for 2014.

That’s the good news.

But look at the numbers. It is a $98.9 million spending plan supported by $85.2 million in projected revenues.

That’s a $13.7 million deficit spending plan.

Families can’t last long on that sort of budget plan.

Most governments shouldn’t try to survive on that.

Fortunately, Lycoming County has a budget surplus to carry forward from previous years.

The unassigned fund balance from 2013 is estimated to be $21.5 million at year’s end, the envy of county governments throughout the state.

But do the math and look at the future. The $13.7 million being used from the carryover is a huge chunk. And while that surplus was earned with efficiency and frugality in the past, more of that will be used to preserve a surplus in the future.

That’s because federal and state funding continues to decrease and the mandated obligations of county government continue to increase.

That’s a bad fiscal formula for the future.

It’s a budget that makes sense for 2014. But it is becoming more important each year for the county to come up with spending reductions and fresh revenue streams to handle the budgets that loom ahead.