No Change In County Taxes For 2010
After months of planning, reviewing annual funding requests and slashing line items, the Fulton County commissioners emerged from their Tuesday morning meeting with a tentative budget in hand that reflects steady millage rates but a revenue shortfall just short of $300,000.
On a unanimously approved motion made by Commissioner David Hoover II, the commissioners tentatively agreed on December 8 to allow real estate taxes to remain at their current level of 10 mills. Occupation taxes, in the meantime, are slated to stay at 20 mills. Neither millage rate has increased since 2006.
Total funding or revenue sources for 2010, as outlined by county business manager Tim Stanton in a budget summary of the general fund, is currently set at $6,205,291. In comparison, expenditures are listed at $6,487,718, which equates to a deficit of $282,427 in 2010.
Stanton noted looking back at the 2009 budget preparations, the commissioners were expecting a shortfall of $304,353. With some “belt tightening” measures, the commissioners were able to reduce their projected shortfall to just under $50,000.
“In 2008 the county had increased its fund balance by $377,143. During 2009 and 2010 the county is using this fund balance surplus from the year 2008 instead of adjusting the millage,” the business manager said in a detailed summation of the budget as well as the ongoing budget process.
To date, expenditures have been grouped into a series of line items, including: general government, $1,280,745; judicial, $1,328,289; public safety, $1,253,439; human services, $1,279,324; culture/recreation, $7,500; conservation/development, $106,009; debt services, $247,320; employee benefits, $776,092; op- erating transfers out, $33,000; and miscellaneous, $176,000.
Public safety increased the most out of all expenditures, jumping by 16 percent as a result of an increase in prisoners and related costs. However, salaries and benefits for county employees still remain the top expense for Fulton County and comprise 54 percent of all money spent.
In conjunction with that statement, it was publicly announced this week in order to help fund a 1 percent raise for county employees in 2010, the commissioners are personally withholding 2 percent of their overall scheduled 3 percent raise. Commissioners’ salaries and raises were previously set in October 2005 by the last board of commissioners for the year 2010.
In looking at ways to reduce their expenses in recent months, the commissioners were able to cut back in several areas. Organizations deemed as falling “outside” the umbrella of the county were hit possibly the hardest, in many cases seeing reductions of at least 50 percent.
Agencies to see reductions in 2010 include Fulton Industrial Development Association, which will be receiving an allotment of $12,000 in comparison to $14,000 in 2009. The Fulton County Extension Office previously received $29,158 and will see its funding request cut to $14,579. The Fulton County Conservation District’s prior allotment of $75,800 was cut in half to $38,000, and the Fulton County Library’s allocation was cut by 50 percent to $7,500.
Line item expenditures further show Fulton County Medical Center’s yearly allocation from the county reduced by 60 percent overall, from $50,000 to $20,000, and the tri-county Area Agency on Aging dropped from $21,473 to $10,750.
In addition, the Fulton County Chamber of Commerce and the Fulton County Parks and Recreation Commission saw their allotments from the county totally axed. The Chamber of Commerce previously received $2,500, and Parks and Recreation was the recipient of $2,000 in 2009.
“The vast majority of county expenditures are required under the laws of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Stanton. “Where costs have increased as a result of mandates of the commonwealth, the county has been successful in controlling costs in other areas and being able to maintain a healthy balance sheet to prevent additional taxation to the residents of Fulton County.”
With themselves now in line to receive a 1 percent raise equal to county employees, the commissioners have also extended the same offer of withholding raises to other elected county officials. County Treasurer Monica Seville has agreed to participate to date, and other elected county officials have until December 18 to make their final decision.
A breakdown of funding sources or revenue for 2010 show taxes at $3,762,141; licenses/ permits, $19,390; intergovernmental revenues, $1,410,677; departmental charges, $362,060; fines, $170,000; operating transfers in, $422,159; and miscellaneous, $58,864.
“The rate of growth in the tax base of Fulton County is low and is 1.6 percent in 2009, which contributes less than $60,000 to the budget in 2010. Intergovernmental revenues are increasing $195,000, which are reimbursements from other agencies. These reimbursements offset the $210,000 in crease in expenditures. With the exception of court fine revenue all other revenue are level or decreasing,” concluded Stanton.
The tentative budget will remain on display until its final adoption on Tuesday, December 29, at 10 a.m. Any residents wishing to review the budget or give comment can do so weekdays between 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by visiting the commissioners’ office located 116 West Market Street.