Crawford County commissioners unanimously approved the preliminary 2020 budget Wednesday with a deficit of $124,160 and no tax increase.

The deficit is expected to be eliminated before final passage of the budget, which will come in late December.

“I’m confident in the next few weeks between now and the adoption of the budget that we will be able to bring this to a zero balance,” Chief Financial Officer Stephanie Franz told the commissioners in presenting the preliminary budget.

The budget projects $73.9 million in revenue for 2020 with expenditures of $74.02 million, Franz said.

The final balance will be achieved through a reduction of expenses, an increase in revenues or some combination of those options, according to Franz. Franz also raised the possibility of using a transfer from the county’s general fund balance to eliminate the deficit, but Commissioner Christopher Soff stated his opposition to such a move during the meeting and again in an interview immediately following the meeting.

A second consecutive tax increase was off the table after commissioners balanced the 2019 budget by raising county real estate taxes by 14.4 percent last year. The increase lifted the county tax rate 2.75 mills, from 19.1 mills to 21.85 mills. At that rate, the Crawford County real estate tax on a property with an assessed value of $25,000 is $546.25.

“We’re glad that everybody cooperated and that we were able to get what we said was our mission all along — to pass the budget with no tax increase,” Commissioner Chairman Francis Weiderspahn Jr. said after the meeting.

“In every one of the budget meetings we had, we told the various departments that we were not going to have a tax increase nor pull from the general fund,” Soff said, “so they were aware of our intent from the beginning.”

Under state law, commissioners must give 20 days notice for public comment prior to final approval of a budget. The preliminary budget was made available for inspection Wednesday and will remain available when the courthouse reopens Monday following a closure Thursday and Friday in observance of  the Thanksgiving Day holiday. The preliminary budget is also available on the Finance Office page of the county website at www.crawfordcountypa.net/Finance/Pages/home.aspx and is available for viewing at Meadville Public Library, 848 N. Main St., and Benson Memorial Library, 213 N. Franklin St., Titusville.

Final adoption of the budget is expected to take place at the Dec. 23 commissioners meeting.

Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.com.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include additional information on where the 2020 preliminary budget can be viewed and when it will be considered for final approval.

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