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No increase in county 2022 real estate taxes proposed

Area property owners will not see an increase in the amount they pay to the county in real estate taxes in 2022 if the preliminary budget, which was presented at the Lycoming County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, is approved in December. The current county real estate rate is 6.5 mills.

Projected revenues included in the budget total $102.9 million, which is $0.4 million, or 0.4% more than the 2021 budget. Next year’s expenditures are projected to be $127.5 million, an increase of $7.3 million or a 6% increase over the current year’s budget, according to Brandy Clemons, county director of budget and finance.

Clemons stated that taxes and other service fees are increasing and they’re being mostly offset by decreases in every other category of revenue the county has.

The major contributors to the increase on the expenditure side is the capital outlays of $3.1 million for building the county health center and the projected move of county departments from Executive Plaza to Third Street Plaza, which will take place after Executive Plaza is sold, which is expected to hopefully occur next year, Clemons said.

No revenue was put in the budget from that expected sale because of the uncertainty of when it would happen.

Fringe costs for the operational costs of the health center are also expected to increase by $1.2 million next year.

The health center would be used by county employees with the intent that it would lower health insurance costs that the county pays by addressing employees’ health issues.

“We’re trying to have the vision that’s going to help reduce the insurance costs, so it’s an investment in order to have healthy employees,” said Commissioner Scott Metzger.

The local use fund is expecting an increase of $3.1 million next year as a result of the continuation of the bridge bundling program. That program is funded entirely by the $5 fee which was added to vehicle registrations a few years ago, Clemons said.

The fund balance for the general fund in the 2020 financials is $26.5 million, Clemons told the commissioners.

“We’re looking to add to that quite a bit this year with all the open positions we have and projects not being completed and being rolled over,” Clemons said.

“We should have no use of deficit but an actual surplus most likely at the end of the current year,” she said.

Next year’s budget, however, includes a rollover of the projects that didn’t get completed this year and the offsetting revenue from the sale of buildings was not there.

“For the taxpayers…when we propose a budget that can change like in 2021, our capital projects that are not there will obviously decrease the expenses for the 2021 budget but carry them over to the 2022 (budget). So, there’s the reason why you see that increase,” Commissioner Tony Mussare said.

When asked by Mussare if this was the highest budget she had ever seen, Clemons, who has been with the county 12 years, stated, ” I believe so.”

“I’d really have to look back but I would say yes,” she said. “It’s quite a bit higher than normal.”

“A lot higher,” Mussare said, “and it’s alarming, not concerning anymore, it’s alarming. We’re going to have to rein in some of these expenses.”

“With decreased funding from federal and state agencies, if we’re looking for that to become a future thing,” Clemons said, ” we’re going to have to tighten our belts a little more in the coming years to adjust.”

The preliminary budget will be available for public inspection on the county’s website at www.lyco.org. Hard copies are available from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the commissioners’ office, the comptroller’s office, the budget and finance office and at the James V. Brown Library and at all six member libraries of the county library system. By PAT CROSSLEY

pcrossley@sungazette.com

Area property owners will not see an increase in the amount they pay to the county in real estate taxes in 2022 if the preliminary budget, which was presented at the Lycoming County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, is approved in December. The current county real estate rate is 6.5 mills.

Projected revenues included in the budget total $102.9 million, which is $0.4 million, or 0.4% more than the 2021 budget. Next year’s expenditures are projected to be $127.5 million, an increase of $7.3 million or a 6% increase over the current year’s budget, according to Brandy Clemons, county director of budget and finance.

Clemons stated that taxes and other service fees are increasing and they’re being mostly offset by decreases in every other category of revenue the county has.

The major contributors to the increase on the expenditure side is the capital outlays of $3.1 million for building the county health center and the projected move of county departments from Executive Plaza to Third Street Plaza, which will take place after Executive Plaza is sold, which is expected to hopefully occur next year, Clemons said.

No revenue was put in the budget from that expected sale because of the uncertainty of when it would happen.

Fringe costs for the operational costs of the health center are also expected to increase by $1.2 million next year.

The health center would be used by county employees with the intent that it would lower health insurance costs that the county pays by addressing employees’ health issues.

“We’re trying to have the vision that’s going to help reduce the insurance costs, so it’s an investment in order to have healthy employees,” said Commissioner Scott Metzger.

The local use fund is expecting an increase of $3.1 million next year as a result of the continuation of the bridge bundling program. That program is funded entirely by the $5 fee which was added to vehicle registrations a few years ago, Clemons said.

The fund balance for the general fund in the 2020 financials is $26.5 million, Clemons told the commissioners.

“We’re looking to add to that quite a bit this year with all the open positions we have and projects not being completed and being rolled over,” Clemons said.

“We should have no use of deficit but an actual surplus most likely at the end of the current year,” she said.

Next year’s budget, however, includes a rollover of the projects that didn’t get completed this year and the offsetting revenue from the sale of buildings was not there.

“For the taxpayers…when we propose a budget that can change like in 2021, our capital projects that are not there will obviously decrease the expenses for the 2021 budget but carry them over to the 2022 (budget). So, there’s the reason why you see that increase,” Commissioner Tony Mussare said.

When asked by Mussare if this was the highest budget she had ever seen, Clemons, who has been with the county 12 years, stated, ” I believe so.”

“I’d really have to look back but I would say yes,” she said. “It’s quite a bit higher than normal.”

“A lot higher,” Mussare said, “and it’s alarming, not concerning anymore, it’s alarming. We’re going to have to rein in some of these expenses.”

“With decreased funding from federal and state agencies, if we’re looking for that to become a future thing,” Clemons said, ” we’re going to have to tighten our belts a little more in the coming years to adjust.”

The preliminary budget will be available for public inspection on the county’s website at www.lyco.org. Hard copies are available from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the commissioners’ office, the comptroller’s office, the budget and finance office and at the James V. Brown Library and at all six member libraries of the county library system.

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