CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield County Commissioners unanimously adopted the 2017 budget with a 3.5-mill tax increase at Tuesday’s regular meeting.
The budget shows increases in the county’s expenses and declines in its revenue sources. Its real estate tax revenue has also remained stagnant.
Despite the commissioners’ efforts to cut departmental expenses, the aforementioned factors have still resulted in a tax increase from 19.5 to 23 mills.
The county’s general fund revenues and expenses are $20,098,596. Its total revenue and expenses are $30,212,804 and $30,252,113, respectively.
“We worked hard on this budget,” said Commissioner Tony Scotto. “We tried to find cuts where we could find them; unfortunately, there was a shortfall in revenue.”
According to him, the county’s Marcellus Shale Act 13/Impact Fee funding has declined significantly. The county is now receiving less than $500,000.
Scotto said the gas industry has slowed down, and residents who worked in the industry have either been laid off or are working outside of the county.
He pointed to the rise in the county’s insurance claims, which decreased its prior-year refund to $107,500. Its health insurance rate also went up for 2017.
In past years, he said the county has been able to mitigate its budget woes due to having a larger fund balance.
However, he said that’s no longer the case with the county’s unrestricted fund balance being less than $200,000.
“We had no other choice other than to make a tax increase,” said Scotto.
Commissioner Mark B. McCracken added the department heads and elected officials were asked to examine their budgets and to cut operational costs by up to 5 percent, and many did.
He said the county also didn’t add any new staff. Later after the meeting, Commissioner John A. Sobel, chair, went on to explain that if a position is vacated, it will be filled if it’s necessary to deliver the county’s services.
In future years, the commissioners are hoping for a better budget scenario.
Both Sobel and McCracken said the county will be retiring its debt as related to the administrative office building and energy enhancements made at Clearfield 911 and county jail.
“We do understand we are spending other people’s money,” said Sobel, “and we do hope it gets better. We will always look to reduce taxes again but don’t know what the future will hold.”