Lycoming County's proposed budget that holds property tax rates steady for the ninth consecutive year goes on public display today.
The preliminary spending plan includes $96.2 million in expenses - $1.65 million more than last year - and $86.1 million in revenues - $6.6 million more than last year.
The $10.1 million difference between expenses and revenues will be balanced by the county's available fund balance. Commissioners said the budget routinely is balanced with money set aside for such purposes.
For example, last year's budget had a $15 million shortfall that was balanced out with surpluses, said Beth Johnston, county director of fiscal services.
Surpluses are created when projects are deferred for future use or don't come to fruition. They then are funneled into a reserve fund.
Seven out of the past 12 years have ended with a surplus for the county coffers, according to Johnston.
"Our past commissioners have created a fund balance by being very frugal," said Commissioner Tony R. Mussare. "We have to take that same attitude."
Commissioner Jeff Wheeland said more than six months of work goes into creating a new budget. He said that's made even more difficult when the county doesn't always know how much revenue to expect.
"A lot of our funding comes from the state government" in the form of grants, he said. "We really don't know what may or may not come to us until after July 1" when the state completes its budget.
Johnston said the top three expenditures include public works, public safety and human services.
She added that more than $2 million in health care costs were saved by negotiating rates with the county's health insurance provider.
Mussare that while the county cannot create jobs, it must plan appropriately, especially when it comes to the Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling industry.
"We are in an area that's booming, but there's costs associated with that," he said. "We don't want to miss any opportunity for business. I don't want to lose business to Elmira when they open up."
New York has imposed a moratorium on natural gas well hydrofracking while environmental and health studies are being completed.
Increased revenues for the 2013 budget are expected from Act 13 natural gas drilling impact fees that will add about $4 million. Commissioners said that money wasn't counted on when preparing the budget.
"We look at that as the taxpayers' money allocated for allowable uses," Mussare said.
The county will be accepting requests for eligible Act 13 projects that meet qualifications. Uses for the impact fees include road, bridge, public infrastructure, water and sewer improvements, emergency preparedness and public safety, affordable housing, social services, judicial services, environmental programs, surface water and groundwater supply preservation and reclamation, records management and career and technical centers for gas and oil industry training.
Agencies that wish to apply for funding may contact the county Department of Planning and Community Development at 320-2130 for more information.
Public comments on the proposed budget will be accepted at 10 a.m. Dec. 6 during a commissioners' meeting. Changes in the budget could be made up to Dec. 13 when it is expected to be adopted.
The proposed budget will be on display at the commissioners' office from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Executive Plaza, 330 Pine St.; James V. Brown Library, 19 E. Fourth St.; and online at www.lyco.org.