WELLSBORO - "This board has benefited from everyone's cooperation, and because of that there will be no tax increase this year," Tioga County Commissioner Erick Coolidge said during a budget meeting at the courthouse here Friday.
Coolidge gave kudos to Chief Clerk Derek Williams, who he said, "stays on top of costs, oversees purchasing and working all arrangements. He contributes so much to management, but we appreciate all the offices for working with us this year."
The proposed 2013 budget will be released at the commissioner's Nov. 13 regular meeting. It will be on display for the public to examine until it is adopted in December.
With all departments reporting smaller budgets for 2013 than 2012, perhaps the biggest difference is in the Department of Human Services budget.
Max Harrison, director of the department, told the commissioners Friday that his 2013 budget of $15.4 million has a lower local match by about $700,000, $1.9 million in 2013, from 2012's local match of $2.6 million.
Reasons given include the transition of the persons with disabilities-operated Highland Chocolates to Mansfield's Partners In Progress and the drug and alcohol clinical programs to CONCERN, both private entities.
"We also have been fiscally careful with expenses," Harrison said.
Human Services saw a huge change in how it is funded from the state this year, with a block grant system replacing the previous program.
The change resulted in a $2.7 million reduction, a 10-percent cut across the board, but according to Coolidge, "what was created with the 20 counties selected will benefit more clients."
"Previously that money could not move from one category to another, and anything left over, would have to go back. Under this scenario, the money can be moved to where it is needed within certain departments and reach a greater number and that is the plus here," he said.
The seven categories combined into the funding stream are mental health, intellectual disabilities, child welfare special grants, homeless assistance, Act 152, behavioral health services initiative and human services development fund.
The grant does not affect intellectual disabilities waiver funding, behavioral health HealthChoices funding or the county child welfare needs based budget.
Under the rules of the block grant, a certain amount of funding can be spent flexibly as long as none of the seven categorical programs is defunded entirely. The grant will be phased in to allow counties to make gradual administrative and program changes over time.
"Tioga County is far ahead of other counties in preparation for block grant funding because of its integrated service delivery," Harrison said in a report to the commissioners.
According to Harrison, in the past, counties were "almost punished for being fiscally sound, because the money you saved, you have to send back."
"Now with the block grant, if you have funds left over, you are allowed to keep 3 percent of that as carryover to use the following year," he said.