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Comms, county staff blast lack of state funding

Lycoming County commissioners blasted state agencies Thursday, which they say owe county departments several million dollars in reimbursements.

Commissioners Tony Mussare and Scott Metzger said the burden falls back on the county taxpayer and they need legislative help.

Mussare noted an account out of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, and told the audience how, when asking for funding mandates, there is “no money.”

“That’s nice but how does that affect county government?” Mussare said.

Mussare pointed toward the lack of reimbursements available to the Lycoming County Adult Probation Office, which he said does more than monitor defendants.

In fact, the office and its probation officials help to set up strategy for combating crime, especially regarding drug-related offenses, he said. At one time, the state reimbursement to the office was 80 percent and the county was 20 percent, Mussare said.

Now, the state provides 26 percent and the county covers 74 percent, he said.

In terms of deputy sheriffs and training, the state used to pay for education costs and then reimburse the county, Mussare said.

“We have not been reimbursed for two years,” he said.

Metzger, who retired from the adult probation office, also weighed in on the reimbursement puzzle.

The state assess a charge of about $300 per person for offenders submitting DNA swabs and fingerprinting identification.

It generally requires one hour of work for the adult probation officer, Metzger said.

Currently, the work is done for any offender with a felony or first-degree misdemeanor, he said.

“The county receives no money back, yet the county employees are doing all the work and putting in manhours,” Metzger said.

Sheriff Mark Lusk amplified what Mussare and Metzger referred to.

The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) oversees sheriff deputy and constable training.

In the law, a “caveat” is written that the county is owed the money, but there is no means or way to collect it, Lusk said.

Instead, the cost to train sheriff deputies and constables comes from Civil Service and goes into the county general fund.

Lusk estimated that $8 million has been taken out of the fund over the years, and the fund has been “slowly depleted.”

He suggested in time there will be no money for training deputies and constables and then no training at all.

Additionally, Lusk said, Pennsylvania State University and Temple University are not “doing it (education) for free.”

Currently, Lusk said there is one deputy sheriff in a training academy and he is told the PCCD may defer until payments received are available.

At best, he said, the PCCD owes the county department $150,000 to $200,000.

“We don’t get reimbursed,” Lusk said. “We get nothing,” he said, referring to the department and alluding to 67 sheriff’s department across Pennsylvania.

“I’d say they owe $3.5 million,” Lusk said.

Mussare and Metzger said the public needs to be aware and be in contact with their state legislators.

“The public can help to guide those who make the rules and pass legislation,” Mussare said.

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