Meadville Tribune

December 7, 2012

Crawford County OKs 'no tax hike' in 2013 budget

By Keith Gushard
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — There will be no tax increase in Crawford County’s property taxes for 2013 as county commissioners Thursday unanimously approved a $37.7 million general operating budget with no-tax increase for the new year.

It means the county real estate taxes on a property with a median assessed value of $24,000 will stay at $452.40. The county’s real estate tax rate will remain at 18.25 mills plus an additional 0.6 mill for the county library system.

A proposed 2013 general operating budget presented to commissioners at the end of October was approximately $500,000 out of balance and would have required about a half-mill of county real estate tax to balance it.

One mill of real estate tax is equal to approximately $1 million in revenue for the county, according to Jody Marley, the county’s chief financial officer.

The county was able to balance the 2013 general fund budget by using $589,129 in reserve funds. Projected expenses and revenues for 2013 balance out at $36,783,135 each.

Marley later told a Tribune reporter the county has about $3 million in reserve funds in various accounts.

A goal of the county in 2013 is to determine its total amount of reserve funds and whether any of those funds are restricted, Marley said. That goal is expected to be reached about mid-year following completion of the county’s 2012 audit, Marley said.

The 2013 county budget is the first budget for the new board of commissioners  — Francis Weiderspahn Jr., C. Sherman Allen and Jack Lynch — who took office in January.

Both commissioners and Marley said they spent a lot of time on the budget, going back to July with capital requests sent out to department heads to start to formulate the budget.

“We got a lot of good input from all the department heads and departments,” said Marley. “We put a schedule up there and we stuck to it.”

Expenses and revenues for each department were reviewed in early fall with individual department heads. During October, department heads were able to make changes to their individual budgets with final review by the county in late October and early November.

The new budget puts an emphasis on capital expenditures that had been suspended for several years by the previous board, according to commissioners.

Earlier this year, an ad hoc county committee recommended a revision to the county’s budget process including starting at mid-year, development of a timetable and more involvement by department heads.

“This all flows from the finance committee recommendations from earlier this year,” said Lynch, the county commissioner who headed that ad hoc committee. “You now have capital items budgeted and you’ll move from item to item in a rational sense over the years.”

Weiderspahn, chairman of commissioners, commended the budget process, noting “it was a group effort.”

While the county has approved the budget, commissioners still must set the tax millage rates for 2013. Commissioners are expected to keep them at current levels at their next full board meeting Dec. 18 at 9:30 a.m. at the courthouse in Meadville.

With passage of the budget, a copy of it will be posted on Crawford County’s website

The budget also will be available for public inspection at the public libraries in both Meadville and Titusville as well as the commissioners’ office at the courthouse in Meadville.

Under Pennsylvania law, a county must approve a balanced budget by each Dec. 31 for use the following year.

What's next

Crawford County commissioners must set the county’s real estate tax millage rate for the 2013 budget. Commissioners are expected to keep the county’s real estate tax rate at 18.25 mills plus an additional 0.6 mills for the county library system. Commissioners are expected to act on real estate taxes at their next full board meeting Dec. 18 at 9:30 a.m. at the courthouse in Meadville.