York County could run out of money by mid-October without state budget


Time is ticking for York County. And when the clock hits zero, commissioners will have to make some very difficult financial decisions while staring down potentially millions of dollars in debt.

The county is projected to run out of money to fund its operations by the middle of October unless a state budget is passed, said Carl Lindquist, county spokesman.

That means it might have to borrow money to keep services afloat until a budget deal is reached in Harrisburg.

"Within the next week or week and a half we'll have to take a hard look and start making some difficult decisions," said Doug Hoke, the vice president commissioner.

Monday marked the 90th day Pennsylvania has been without a budget since Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed the entire GOP-drafted $30.2 billion at the end of June.

Most nonprofit agencies and county governments across Pennsylvania have been hit hard since the state funding stream went dry.

Reserves: The county has taken numerous steps to scale back expenses, such as halting payments to many contracted services providers, and has been dipping into its cash reserve and general funds to cover costs since early July, Linquist said.

But the money is running out.

"We're essentially spending our general fund faster than we normally would," Lindquist said. He added that the county had $9.3 million in reserve at the end of 2014.

Mark Derr, the county administrator, has been keeping tabs on the financial situation and is putting together a presentation he'll give during an upcoming commissioner's meeting, said Commissioner Chris Reilly.

The county is staring down a $15 million to $20 million deficit if a budget isn't signed into law by the end of the year, Reilly said.

The first line of defense would be for the county to take out a line of credit to avoid reducing services or temporarily furloughing employees, commissioners said.

"I'm praying it doesn't get to that point," Reilly said. "People are going to start feeling the pinch. There are people out there who have been feeling it."

But when funds are running low and relief from the state could be weeks or months away, the commissioners will be looking at everything.

"I think all our options will be on the table," Hoke said.

Borrowing: There is a caveat to borrowing money: The county wouldn't be reimbursed by the state for interest it would be charged by banks.

"We talk about it (the state budget impasse) almost every day," Hoke said. "I'm cautiously optimistic something will get done."

The county, and other governments and agencies across the state that receive state dollars, will start receiving state funding again once a budget is signed into law.

In the days and weeks after Wolf vetoed the budget, numerous nonprofit agencies in York County took out lines of credit to keep operating.

"They're running out of money," said Steve Chronister, president commissioner. "They're running out of credit lines."

The York County Children's Advocacy Center, which investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect, is missing out on $5,000 to $6,000 in state funding a month it would receive through the county for services it provides, said Deb Harrison, its executive director.

The agency did receive some relief recently when the state began to release again a Commission on Crime and Delinquency grant the agency was already approved for.

That amounts to about $25,000 it will receive through the end of the year, she said.

"The grant is flowing to us," Harrison said. "We have to spend it between now and December."

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.