By Keith Gushard
The Meadville Tribune
Property owners in Crawford County won’t be facing an increase in the county’s real estate property tax rate for 2014.
At Thursday’s meeting of the Crawford County Board of Commissioners, the board voted 3-0 to give preliminary approval to a no-tax increase budget, maintaining the county’s real estate tax rate at 18.25 mills and an additional 0.6 mills for the county library system.
For a property with a median assessed value of $24,000, the county real estate taxes will remain at $452.40 for 2014.
The total budget for 2014 is $59,531,017 with revenues totaling $59,538,025.
The county’s general operating budget, which funds day-to-day operations, is put at $27.86 million for 2014, according to Jody Marley, the county’s chief financial officer.
The county will use $519,408 of its fund balance to balance the general fund budget for 2014, Marley said. The fund balance number is a little bit less than the $542,000 Marley had projected at Monday’s commissioners work session when she first gave commissioners a preview of the 2014 budget.
“There’s a little bit more work to do on it,” Marley said.
“One of main areas was keeping health care costs down,” Marley said in formally presenting the budget Thursday. “Changes in (health care) programs hopefully will keep costs down.”
Crawford County’s switching to a self-funded health insurance plan has helped limit the county’s health insurance increase to about 6 percent.
“We haven’t raised health care in this budget,” Marley said, noting health care costs usually rise $500,000 to $600,00 a year for the county. “It’s a line item that eats up about 12 percent of our budget a year.”
Preliminary work on the budget began in July by the finance office. Budget meetings by the commissioners and finance office with various county departments began in late summer and continued into October.
“I would say to one and all involved it’s been an outstanding process,” Commissioner Jack Lynch said.
The proposed 2014 general operating budget of $27.86 million is $8.92 million less than this year’s budget of $36.78 million due to accounting changes, Marley said.
“We’ve not had to cut anything,” Marley said following Thursday’s meeting.
Marley said “pass through funds” such as money collected by the county for taxes for school districts and the City of Meadville had been moved out of the general operating budget to give a more accurate depiction. Also, the county’s Domestic Relations Department was moved to its own budget, she said.
With passage of the preliminary budget, it now goes on public display.
A copy of the proposed 2014 budget is available for public inspection in Meadville at both the commissioners office at the Crawford County Courthouse, 903 Diamond Park, and the Meadville Public Library, 868 N. Main St., Meadville. A copy also will be available at Benson Memorial Library, 213 N. Franklin St., Titusville.
County commissioners are expected to give final approval to the budget at their Dec. 5 meeting.
The proposed 2014 budget for Crawford County has been given preliminary approval by county commissioners and totals $59.5 million in expenses.
The breakdown of projected expenses for 2014 are:
General operating: $27,860,421;
Domestic relations: $1,406,888;
Children and youth/juvenile probation: $9,312,618;
Mental health/intellectually disabled/early intervention: $6,644,516;
Liquid fuels: $321,392;
Hazardous materials: $114,248
Wireless 911: $264,909;
Care center: $12,816,256;
Total expenses: $59,531,017