After three consecutive years of no tax hikes, York County officials are blaming the coming year's proposed 8.9 percent increase on the $7 million in budget cuts passed down from the state.
The York County Commissioners, the most vocal of whom has been President Commissioner Steve Chronister, have bemoaned the state decreases since Gov. Tom Corbett proposed his budget earlier this year, saying the state's top executive kept his pledge not to raise taxes by placing shortfalls at the feet of county officials.
Citing "funding decisions that are beyond our control," the commissioners Wednesday unveiled a preliminary 2013 budget that would increase the millage rate by 8.9 percent, from 4.15 to 4.52 mills, effective Jan. 1.
A taxpayer with a home assessed at $150,000 will pay $678 in county real estate taxes, $55 more than the $623 paid in 2012.
Commissioners are expected to vote on a final 2013 budget at a meeting Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 10 a.m.
Included in the county's budget cuts for 2013 are 12 positions, most of which are staff at Pleasant Acres, said county spokesman Carl Lindquist.
President Commissioner Steve Chronister said officials would like to whittle down the tax increase, but he's not sure where to cut because the county has already been making cuts for the past three years.
Reaction: While applauding the commissioners' three-year run, Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, said commissioners are also "passing the buck."
"(The state) had major federal cuts in the billions from stimulus funding expiring and we didn't raise taxes," he said. "We didn't once blame anyone. We dealt with the economic realities of our times and produced two budgets which matched those realities."
Grove said raising taxes is ultimately the commissioners' decision, and "playing the blame game isn't leadership."
Grove offered solutions, saying county officials should have opted in to a state-suggested Human Services Block Grant that would have provided more flexibility in their budget, but they didn't.
He recommended a few areas where savings could be found.
"I, for one, would cut the cable TV off at the prison and refocus corrections resources to educate prisoners to ensure they are productive members of society upon their release and not fund prisoner playtime," he said.
Grove also suggested implementing performance-based budgeting to evaluate the results of programs they're funding.
Chronister's view: Chronister said prisoners pay for cable television themselves, as the bill is covered by profits the prison makes from inmates' commissary purchases.
And he said he's not sure what "performance-based" budgeting even means or how the county should, for example, measure the performance of prison guards.
Chronister said the block grant was unhelpful and "wouldn't mean a thing" to the county's budget woes. He said he'd be willing consider suggestions for budget cuts, but added there are few opportunities for savings because the county has been "so frugal already" for the past three years.
The details: The 2013 budget is $470 million, with a general fund of $188.9 million. The general fund is the portion of the budget supported by the property tax.
The general fund increased 5.8 from 2012, "reflecting increased subsidies to support the Pleasant Acres Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Children, Youth & Family services and 911 operations," according to the county's budget presentation. "All three of these departments are core county services and are impacted by state and federal government funding cuts in 2013."
The preliminary budget is available for public review and comment for 20 days. Copies are available at the Commissioners Office, 28 E. Market St. or at www.yorkcountypa.gov, by hovering over "County Administration" and clicking on "Budget and Finance."