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Comms list broad-based initiatives for 2020

Lycoming County commissioners say they share priorities of their counterparts across the state calling for increased dollars for mental health services and a solution to the emergency medical services crisis in 2020.

Among other broad-based concerns identified by county leaders are property tax reform, rural broadband expansion and adult probation funding.

Commissioner Tony Mussare said the issues demonstrate the wide range of services provided and the need for strong collaboration between the state and counties.

Top among all priorities is increased funding for mental health.

Commissioner Rick Mirabito said the funding is sorely needed to help new mental health initiatives succeed.

It will mean coordination and investment in mental health programs and services.

He noted the “recurring threat” to eliminate the Behavioral HealthChoices program, which would result in the disruption of care and treatment for thousands of residents in the state.

Mussare said communities continue to struggle with providing emergency medical services to residents.

“By seeking an active partnership with the state, counties can join the conversation to relieve municipal burden on a critical system,” he said.

Commissioner Scott Metzger noted the need to address property tax reform.

While the county must provide a host of services to residents, the property tax is the sole tax officials impose to keep pace with those mandates.

Having other options, he said, would allow counties to “decide what portfolio of local taxes works most equitably for their constituents while also meeting the funding needs within the county to sustain services.”

Mirabito said collaboration is needed between government and private partners to develop strategies for bringing expanded broadband service.

“Our rural communities cannot continue to wait for broadband infrastructure that is critical as the backbone of business, a tool for education, health care, emergency services and other key parts of our everyday lives,” he said.

With regard to adult probation funding, Metzger said, “In Lycoming County, our growing need for adult probation services without increased funding stresses our ability to use those programs as a part of a comprehensive criminal justice system. Increased and improved coordination of funding will allow the appropriate use of limited resources for enhancing public safety options.”

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