2011-01-06 / Front Page

County Taxes Remain Unchanged

Commissioners adopt 2011 budget
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER

Real estate tax rates will remain at 10 mills this year even though minor adjustments were made to the budget’s bottom line prior to the Fulton County commissioners giving 2011’s finances a final nod of approval last week.

In unanimously adopting the budget last Wednesday, commissioners Bonnie Mellott Keefer, David Hoover II and Craig Cutchall reviewed the county’s proposed income and disbursements that were altered since the budget was initially revealed on December 7.

According to county business manager Tim Stanton, “There where some changes between the adopted budget and the final budget. Most of those changes related to implementing accounting practices of how the county reports 911 expenditures and domestic relation expenditures.”

The original proposal approved by the commissioners included $6,381,181 in funding or revenue, which has been dropped to a final total of $6,136,434. Also seeing a cut was the category of expenditures that accordingly decreased from $6,781,737 to $6,581,319.

As a result, the difference between the two categories has now risen to $444,885 with the deficit likely being covered through the use of prior year funding.

“When a recession occurs the demand for services goes up and the ability to pay for it goes down. This creates a problematic budgeting process that trickles down from the federal to the state and then the state to the county. This process creates revenue shortfalls and higher expenditures,” said the commissioners in their summary of the budget.

“The vast majority of the expenditures of the county are required under the laws of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Where costs have increased as a result of mandates of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the county has been successful in controlling costs in other areas and being able to maintain a healthy balance sheet in order to prevent additional taxation to the residents of Fulton County,” they added.

2011 coincidentally marks the fifth consecutive year the commissioners managed to hold the bottom line on real estate taxes. The overall line item referred to as taxes is anticipated to generate $3,904,240 in income this year. Intergovernmental revenues are the next highest category of income, which is currently set at $1,454,540.

Under expenses, debt service is expected to ring in at $324,851. That amount represents an increase of $77,500 in conjunction with the county completing the initial phase of its ongoing renovation project and nearly reaching the conclusion of the second phase. Final work associated with the project will get under way this year and includes demolition of the probation office, a new facade or front for the domestic relations office and a new roof for the courthouse.

The future of the courthouse pillars as well as the sheriff’s office also remain unclear and could possibly be addressed next year. Commissioner Keefer previously announced the jail cell portion of the building has already been demolished but the office itself remains without heat.

As a result, the county was looking at the possibility of temporarily relocating sheriff’s office staff into a nearby facility. A lease agreement was penned with Ronald S. Kearns, successor trustee of the Ray S. Koontz Revocable Living Trust, for office space and utilities for the sheriff’s office beginning January 1, 2011 and concluding December 31, 2011. The monthly cost for the office space and utilities has been set at $595.

With a new overhead walkway recently constructed linking the courthouse and existing sheriff’s office, project architects have indicated in the event a new sheriff’s office is constructed it would be compatible with the walkway.

Additional expenditures not accounted for in the current budget but being considered for 2011 are the purchase of central scan equipment as well as document imaging equipment. The central scan equipment would replace current equipment used on election night in the commissioners’ office and eliminate the need for ballot counting machines at each of the county’s 12 polling locations. The machine has been estimated at $25,000 with a one-year warranty and would eliminate the need for system failures, setup and tear down and high maintenance fees.

There were no questions or comments received by the county business manager on the budget since it was first displayed on December 7. Furthermore, it is believed no members of the public attended any budget meetings or reviewed the public copy of the budget placed on display in the commissioners’ office.

Having been adopted on December 29, a copy of the budget will remain on display for public access in the commissioners’ office located in the Neighborhood Service Center Building and online at www.co.fulton.pa.us.

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