York County commissioner candidates on state budget impasse


Five candidates — two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent — are vying for three open seats on the York County Board of Commissioners in the Tuesday, Nov. 3 election.

Candidates are Republicans Chris Reilly, an incumbent, and Susan Byrnes, a health activist; Democrats Doug Hoke, an incumbent, and Henry Nixon, a York City councilman; and incumbent Steve Chronister, running as an independent.

As part of The York Dispatch's ongoing election coverage, we posed three questions to the candidates. Their responses to one question will be published each week leading up to the election; this is the second part of the series.

Question: The state has been without a budget for more than three months. York County has had to scale back some services, such as implementing a waiting list for older residents requesting some services through its Area Agency on Aging. It also stopped paying some social service providers. Should York County create a fund it could dip into to continue to provide services at expected rates during future budget impasses?

Steve Chronister, independent

Age: 62

Family: Wife, Julie, and three children

Occupation: York County commissioner

Education: York Catholic High School, PGA of America

Community involvement: None at this time

Answer: Thank goodness the County of York did have a substantial reserve fund which should get us through until of end of October. Having too large of a reserve fund probably means that we have taxed our residents at too high of a rate.

Henry Nixon, Democrat

Age: 67

Family: Wife, Barbara; three children and a foster son

Occupation: York City Council

Education: Bachelor's degree, Gettysburg College

Community involvement: Community Progress Council, board chair; Leadership York; York Symphony Orchestra; Rotary Club of York

Answer: Unfortunately, there is little doubt there will be future budget impasses. However, I do not think that the county should provide a fund of taxpayer dollars because the legislature and governor are irresponsible in their duties to pass a budget on time.

Doug Hoke, Democrat

Age: 64

Family: Single

Occupation: York County commissioner

Education: West York Area High School, bachelor's degree in history and political science from Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri

Community involvement: South Central Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board, York County Convention and Visitor Bureau, Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area, Volunteer at Aseracare Hospice, St. Stephens UCC

Answer: As an 8-year incumbent commissioner, fiscal responsibility and planning for the long term sustainability of York County government is one of my top priorities. A special reserve fund specifically assigned to protect agencies from the inability of state government to adequately fund legislative mandated services is not a good idea. Of course good fiscal management dictates some level of reserves.

Christopher B. Reilly, Republican

Age: 53

Family: Wife, Lisa, and three children

Occupation: County commissioner

Education: bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland

Community involvement: Member of HACC-York Advisory Council and York County Parks Charitable Trust board

Answer: My philosophy has always been to not maintain huge reserves. Those are taxpayer dollars not county government funds. We build a modest reserve and contingency fund into each annual budget. In cases such as the current state budget impasse, however, we would have to create a reserve of upwards of $20 million to fully fund services. Obviously we would have to raise taxes to do that. Budget impasses are relatively rare. In any event I'm not going to penalize county taxpayers for the governor and legislators not doing their jobs.

Susan P. Byrnes, Republican

Age: 64

Family: Husband, Randy, three children

Occupation: Community volunteer

Education: R.N., associate degree, Penn State University, honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, York College

Community involvement: Founder of Byrnes Health Education Center, president of Veterans Memorial Gold Star Healing & Peace Garden, president of York County Veterans Outreach

Answer: As unfortunate as the current situation in Harrisburg is with regard to the budget, it seems reasonable that the board of county commissioners consider the creation of a fund that might be utilized as a safety net in a similar extreme situation. Prudent fiscal management practices assume that unforeseen circumstances will eventually arise when either revenues decrease or expenses increase beyond one's control. Whether it is a family savings account or a county budget, creating a savings allocation to weather the impact of such a situation is a sound financial practice.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.