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Commissioners approve no-tax-hike 2020 budget

Lycoming County Commissioners Thursday gave final approval to a $111 million budget for next year that maintains the real estate tax millage at 6.50.

It was noted that the spending plan reflects an increase of about $1.1 million since the preliminary budget was made public last month.

Those increased expenditures include $494,000 for the county’s levee project, which is being funded by a state grant, and the county’s share of natural gas fee dollars.

Other increased expenditures amount to $301,000 for capital and operating expenses deferred from this year and $36,000 for a second central processing center for law enforcement.

The budget includes a 2.5 percent pay hike for county employees.

Commissioners noted that health care costs are continuing to drive up expenses.

In the past year, county government saw increased health care claims.

Commissioner Jack McKernan said employees are required to pay a greater share for their health care coverage including higher deductibles as a means of countering the rising insurance costs.

To avoid a tax hike and fill a budget deficit of about $4 million, the county is tapping its fund balance, which will remain at more than $20 million.

McKernan said that figure is a good reflection of the county’s robust financial stability, especially with respect to other counties in the state.

The vote to pass the budget and maintain the tax millage was 3-0.

Voting yes were McKernan and Commissioners Rick Mirabito and Tony Mussare.

The meeting marked the last commissioners meeting for 2019 and the final one for McKernan.

McKernan, who served one four-year term before losing his re-election bid this year, noted the accomplishments of commissioners during his time in office.

He said he was proud of work done on behalf of the levee project, the financial stability of the county, and the community outreach of commissioners.

“I think our team has a lot to be proud of,” he said.

Mirabito called McKernan “a tireless worker” and agreed the board of commissioners accomplished a lot in the past four years.

Mussare noted that McKernan was often the “cool head” among the three commissioners when arguments arose between himself and Mirabito.

“What a dedicated servant you’ve been for the four years you’ve been here,” he said.

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