County budget carries 14 percent tax hike

Public hearing for tentative spending plan Nov. 28

Fulton County Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch gives a presentation on the county's 2018 tentative budget Monday at the County Office Building in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County property taxpayers will see an average 14 percent tax rate hike for 2018, according to the $92.3 million tentative county budget released Monday.

The full Board of Supervisors got its first look at the tentative spending plan at the County Office Building. The board voted to “accept” the budget, but adoption will come later this month or in December.

Supervisors set a budget workshop for 1 p.m. Monday at the County Office Building.

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be 1:30 p.m. Nov. 28 at the County Office Building.

“Human services is the largest part of the budget and the most significant as far as the tax levy,” said county Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch during a presentation to the board.

Mayfield Supervisor Rick Argotsinger, center glasses, chairman of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors' Finance Committee, discusses the county's 2018 tentative budget Monday at the County Office Building in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

The tentative budget carries an average 14.4 percent tax rate increase — from a $9.99 per $1,000 of assessed valuation rate for 2017 to $11.43 per $1,000 for 2018. The average tax rate among the two cities and 10 towns would go up by $1.44 per $1,000.

The tax levy would be $31.39 million for 2018 — carrying a 15.3 percent increase in the levy. The state tax cap allows a 3.7 percent increase, but the board would have to make a $3.2 million reduction in the levy to meet the cap. The board already voted this year to allow themselves the option of exceeding the cap for the tax year.

Kuntzsch said a property owner with a home assessed at $100,000 would see their tax bill increase by $144 for 2018. A $50,000 home sees a $72 tax bill increase.

Mayfield Supervisor Rick Argotsinger, chairman of the board’s Finance Committee, said in his overview of the budget that supervisors and county department heads since last summer have already cut much out of the proposed budget.

“We worked very diligently on this,” Argotsinger said. “I encourage everyone to go through this.”

Argotsinger said the Budget Review Committee met three times. He said a full department-by-department, line-by-line review was carried out. He said department heads have done a good job, but “revenues aren’t there” for the county next year. Supervisors have already made about $993,000 in line item reductions, and approximately $605,769 in projected revenue increases were made, he said.

The Finance Committee has already applied $1.5 million of general fund balance and about $852,000 of highway fund balance. Argotsinger said that due to the “substantial gap” between revenues and expenses, and potential large tax hike, the committee voted not to include any new positions or upgrades in the tentative budget.

The full board will study those next week.

A key figure in the tentative budget includes $54.5 million in revenues. Supervisors have decided not to give themselves a raise next year.

Kuntzsch said new revenue streams for the 2018 county budget include $225,000 in casino fees; and $75,000 in occupancy tax revenue, which must go toward the county tourism program.

The budget director said the county is working on three union contracts, with labor costs that go into the coming year. She said that personnel costs are seeing a 6.15 percent hike, or $1.3 million, primary due to increases in health insurance.

Kuntzsch noted there are several positions proposed, but stated: “I don’t believe we can afford all these positions.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at