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County slates hearings on $88M budget

November 24, 2012
By MICHAEL ANICH , The Leader Herald

JOHNSTOWN - Fulton County property owners will have two chances Monday to let their feelings be known about the county's 8 percent average tax-rate hike proposed for 2013.

The Board of Supervisors will conduct a meeting starting at 1 p.m. Monday in the second floor Supervisors' Chambers at the County Office Building. Two public hearings on the county's proposed $88 million budget will be held during that session - at 1:30 and 7 p.m.

Supervisors are slated to vote on the final 2013 budget after the 7:30 p.m. hearing.

The board's currently proposed budget carries an average property tax-rate hike of almost 8 percent. If that budget isn't changed and that level of taxation remains Monday, it would mean the county will have raised the tax rate by about 24 percentage points over the last three years.

The county's 2012 budget had an average tax rate increase of about 6 percent, and the increase was 10 percent the year before.

According to county Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch, the proposed 2013 tax levy is about $30.2 million, and the average rate would be $12.47 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Perth Supervisor Greg Fagan, chairman of the board's Finance Committee, said Friday the county has not filled several vacant positions in recent years.

"I think we have very closely followed that the last three years," he said.

But Fagan said the county can't implement large, wholesale layoffs of current county personnel because many department operations have been cut to bare bones already.

"You try not to do that," Fagan said. "If you do [large layoffs], you really don't function. I think we're down about as far as you can go. I think we've gotten to that point."

The Board of Supervisors last week did indicate it will look at possibly applying a portion of fund balance to help reduce the proposed tax levy for 2013. Supervisors already have applied $1.5 million from the fund balance toward the proposed 2013 budget. About $6.7 million remains in general fund balance, officials said.

Supervisors earlier this year voted to override the state-mandated tax-levy cap for 2013. The cap was 2.5 percent, but the tax-levy increase is currently about 8.9 percent.

Overall, county spending would drop about 5 percent for 2013, from $94 million in the 2012 county budget.

Federal and state aid have decreased 10.9 percent, or about $3 million, for next year.

The two major state mandates affecting property taxes for next year will be Medicaid and state retirement system costs, which will increase by $1.3 million and $2.2 million, respectively. For 2013, those two mandates represent 58 percent of the tax levy.

One-time revenue from the county's previous sale of the former Fulton County Residential Health Care Facility to a private agency left a $3.5 million revenue shortfall for 2013.

In addition, $1.8 million of expenses related to the former county nursing home - such as retiree health benefits, workers' compensation costs and unemployment insurance - were inherited by the county's general fund.

The county share of health insurance premiums continues to have a major effect. Premiums budgeted at $7.9 million for next year have increased by about $2 million.

Michael Anich can be reached at



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