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York County commissioners are poised to raise real estate taxes 12 percent to cover a roughly $15 million gap in its 2016 budget.

Under the proposal, introduced at the commissioner's weekly meeting on Wednesday, the millage rate would increase from 4.52 mills to 5.07 mills, which equals to a $74 increase for a property assessed at $131,345, the average assessed value in the county.

"There's a lot of things that impacted the budget," county administrator Mark Derr told commissioners as he presented the preliminary budget, noting financial pressure is coming from a variety of fronts.

The $532.5 million budget includes general fund expenses of $212.2 million, an increase of 7.8 percent over 2015.

The last time commissioners increased taxes was in 2013, when the tax rate rose from 4.15 mills to its current rate, a 8.9 percent hike.

The proposed budget can be viewed at the commissioners' office, 28 E. Market St. in York City, during normal business hours. It also will be posted online at yorkcountypa.gov under the commissioners' tab.

2016 Rising costs: The county is projecting increases in health care costs, commitments to its pension plan and the Office of Children, Youth & Families and Pleasant Acres Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in 2016. That's coupled with the inability to refinance existing debt, Derr said.

Health care costs are expected to increase $4.6 million next year, while the county is expecting to contribute an additional $2.5 million to its pension fun.

In 2015, the county contributed $9.4 million to the pension fund, $1.1 million less than what is needed to fully fund the system. In 2016, commissioners are committed to making the full contribution of $12.3 million, Derr said.

The Children, Youth & Families budget is to increase by $1.8 million to hire more staff to handle an increase in suspected abuse cases. Through the first eight months of this year, the office conducted 3,044 investigations into suspected child abuse and neglect, a roughly 75 percent increase from the 1,735 investigated for the same period of last year.

The county's subsidy to the county-run nursing home is expected to increase $1.5 million next year, for a total of $7.7 million, Derr said.

Debt: The county saw about $7 million in savings in 2015 by refinancing debt, but that option is not available in 2016, Derr said.

To offset some of the financial burden, the budget does not include $124,000 in funding requests by county departments.

The county will also do away with 120 vacant positions, about 80 of which were at the nursing home, in 2016. The positions have not been filled for at least year, Derr said.

Rising costs were a big factor in 2015, when revenue exceeded budget by $30,000 but expenses was $6.5 million over budget.

Doug Hoke, vice president commissioner, said commissioners and staff will review and possibly tinker with the proposal in the coming weeks.

Commissioners will vote on the final budget on Wednesday,  Dec. 23.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.

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