Byrnes is York County president commissioner

Greg Gross

A few hours after Susan Byrnes was sworn in as a York County commissioner Monday morning, she was elected president commissioner.

She wasted no time getting to business, addressing the county's financial state that she, fellow commissioners Chris Reilly and Doug Hoke and county employees must work to improve.

"It now falls on us, the current board (and county employees) to find a way to fiscal responsibility," she said.

Byrnes, a Republican, beat Steve Chronister, who served as president commissioner two of his three terms in office, in the November election.

Hoke, a Democrat, and Reilly, a Republican, were re-elected.

Byrnes was elected president commissioner by a unanimous vote at the re-organizational meeting, and Hoke was elected vice president commissioner by a 2-1 vote. Reilly voted against.

Finances: Byrnes praised the work of the outgoing board of commissioners but said the new board must work to improve county finances.

In December, the board voted to increase county real estate taxes 14 percent, taking the millage rate to 5.16 mills for 2016, as expenses increased.

Though Byrnes called the tax hike the responsible move, she said commissioners and the heads of county departments must address significant financial challenges that lay ahead.

On top of increasing expenses, particularly in the area of heath care, the county is also staring down a $21 million debt it may have to pay back by the end of the year.

The debt, which stems from years old upgrades to the county's 911 system, is considered "stranded debt" because it was used to finance a system that will become obsolete in 2017, when a new, federally mandated upgraded system goes live.

Since the debt is stranded, a judge could grant a 10-year extension of when the final payment is due.  If the county can stave off having to pay in full, it would mean it would have to make $3.8 million yearly payments starting in 2017.

As part of her plans, Byrnes told department heads who attended the re-organizational meeting they can expect quarterly financial reviews. Officials will also look into the cellphone stipend for employees.

"We have the skills to meet our financial challenges," Byrnes said. "This is our opportunity to make a difference."

— Reach Greg Gross at