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Commissioners Pass Tentative $20 Million Budget, No Tax Increase

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 @ 12:11 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

Commissioners 6/11/2019CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Clarion County Commissioners Ted Tharan, Wayne Brosius, and Ed Heasley on Tuesday morning adopted a tentative 2020 Clarion County budget of nearly $20 million, and it maintains a 22 mill tax rate.

The complete budget is available for public review or online at the county website.

Commissioners will vote to approve the final budget on Thursday, December 26.

Tharan said he was pleased with the tentative budget and thanked everyone who worked on it, noting that most of the work was completed by Commissioner Heasley and Rose Logue, interim acting fiscal director.

“As in the past three years, we started in August with many proposals, and we were able to finish with a balanced budget based on realistic funds,” said Heasley.

“Department heads have kept the costs, and we work with that and what we really need. There are some things that we have no control over such as hospitalization and pension costs. We are one of the few counties that offer complete family insurance benefits, but employees do have to pay 12.5 percent of insurance costs. We make sure the budget always has a contingency budget. We do all of that without a tax increase.”

Logue explained the tentative budget with the following summary notes:

  • The budget is $19,985,950.00. However, it is important to recognize that pass-through grants account for $4,758,000.00 of the budget, including YMCA RACP Pass-Through, Clarion Healthcare RACP Pass-Through, and Brady Tunnel Grant Pass-Through.
  • Tax revenue is budgeted at an increase of $116,047.00 stemming from an increase of the assessed value and tax claim revenue.
  • A number of changing expenses also impact the budget such as:
    1. Health insurance $121,177.00 (General Fund portion of the increase)
    2. CYS Match $237,662.00
    3. Actuarially Determined Contribution—changing the interest-earning to 7.25% to better reflect the growth of the fund. $66,000.00.
    4. Raises of 2.5. percent (non-union matching union increases) $122,000.00
    5. Net Total: $431,392.00
  • The budget will be balanced by using $350,000.00 of unrestricted fund balance. The 2020 budget still has over $118,000.00 in contingency funding for prudent fiscal management.

Estimated 2019 End of Year Surplus

The 2019 budget is expected to produce a surplus of around $400,000.00 which will increase the General Fund – Fund Balance. This is a combination of revenues coming in strong at around 98 percent of the budgeted revenues and expenses for the year at about 91 percent. The reasons for the savings on the expense-side include the following:

  1. The contingency reserve has not been needed at this point. This is an amount of money built into the budget in case of emergency or if expenses that are not under the control of the commissioners come in over the expected budgeted amount. Examples of these items include inmate medical and food; match for the Human Services Agencies; and property and liability insurance. This accounts for about $288,000.00 of the expected reduction in the expenses for 2019.
  2. Homicide cases. This accounts for $20,000.00 of the anticipated savings.
  3. The actuarially determined contribution to the Clarion County Retirement Account was lowered by $35,000.00 by the actuaries from the estimated contribution provided in October of 2018.
  4. The remaining $60,000.00 to $70,000.00 is small savings through all of the budgeted items.

General Fund — Fund Balance

The 2019 beginning Fund Balance is $4,557,387.00 ($276,603.00 of which is debt service restricted).

The commissioners will be passing a fund balance policy, along with the 2020 budget, establishing a prudent balance of between 14 to 16 percent of the General Fund operating budget estimated to be around $2,468,280.00. For 2019, the commissioners budgeted $500,000.00 for capital improvement projects, such as purchasing the District Attorney’s Office Building and placing new windows in the courthouse. This leaves about $1.3 million of the fund balance for future capital improvement projects as part of the 5-year Capital Improvement Plan.

It is expected that the Fund Balance will be increased by another $400,000.00 from the 2019 budget excess but $350,000.00 of it will be used to balance the 2020 Budget.

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