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The Progress Home >> Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - Centre County commissioners approve budget

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Centre County commissioners approve budget
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
By Terry Whetstone Staff Writer
BELLEFONTE - With a 2-1 vote there is a new, tentative 2013 budget in place for Centre County following yesterday morning's weekly meeting at the WillowBank Building in Bellefonte.
The balanced budget shows $79,833,028 for operating expenses and $7,513,567 in the capitol expenses for a grand total of $87,346,595.
Commissioners Steve Dershem and Chris Exarchos voted in favor of that while commissioner Michael Pipe said no.
Denise Elbell, finance director, gave the budget overview and noted one mill in the county is worth about $26,000. She said there was less than one percent growth over last year.
She also said there have been 117 foreclosures, the county has lost $1 million in federal revenue and may lose $800,000 for the department of corrections due to a loss of federal money there.
Also Centre Crest nursing home, which is run by the county, is operating at a $1 million deficit this year and most likely will be that or more next year.
The fund balance is at $5.9 this next but that number is down due to major projects, such as the 911 radio upgrades.
One of the duties of the minority commissioner is to offer a different viewpoint from the majority commissioners and to hold the accountable," Pipe said.
Then he presented his thoughts on the budget.
He said there are over 30 areas of the budget they agree on, which makes up 98.5 percent of it.
He said for the most part what they disagree with is the use of Act 13 funds, amount of contingency funds, prison payroll changes, contracts with community help center, staffing at the office of aging and cuts in services at mental health, intellectual disabilities.
Pipe doesn't believe the Act 13 money, which is for the Marcellus shale drilling, should be used to balance the budget because sooner or later that money is going to disappear. This year there is $660,000 from Act 13.
Pipe said the finance staff did a great job working on the budget.
"We're talking about two different budgets here," Exarchos said. "Commissioner Pipe's shows a million dollar deficit, I don't want to end up like the federal budget is."
Exarchos said he disagrees with how the formula was set up for municipalities to get money.
Pipe wants to give Snow Shoe Borough extra money because of the amount of truck traffic it has to deal with.
Exarchos said if he had done the formula State College Borough wouldn't be getting any of the money while Snow Shoe would be getting more, but he didn't so it is what it is.
Commissioner Chairman Dershem said he cannot justify raising taxes.
He would like to see the assessment go up and he said the Act 13 money is being used to balance the budget this year.
Exarchos said he agrees with Pipe the Act 13 money should not be depended upon to balance the budget, but he hope before that money runs out the country will begin to recover.
Exarchos said 117 people are losing their homes this year, "I don't want to see that happen again," he said.
It was noted that three positions in the office of aging will probably be lost and possibly eight at the prison.
Elbell said of those eight, six are currently vacant, so only two people there would possibly lose their jobs.
When questioned about Centre Crest, the commissioners said it's a 240-bed facility, but only about 210 are filled.
They noted newer facilities are opening up and Centre Crest needs some work.
Pipe noted the employees are great there, but there are some issues that need addressed.
Dershem said it costs over $200 a day to treat a patient, but Medicare is only reimbursing the facility $160 a day.
That is where the problems are coming into play. They intend to look into the matter and have some serious discussions this year.
The final 2013 budget will be adopted on Dec. 27 at 10 a.m.
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