York County leaders optimistic about future
Speaking to a crowd of about 100 people on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at Dover Area High School, Vice President Commissioner Doug Hoke struck an optimistic tone.
"If you look at the numbers, the future of York County is in good hands," Hoke said. "We're paying our bills, we're meeting our obligations, trying to hold the line on taxes and trying to do the right thing."
Hoke was one of several speakers Tuesday at the State of the County, a presentation designed to give folks a snapshot of how the county and its various departments are doing.
The numbers: Hoke said the good financial health of the county is due in large part to Mark E. Derr, county administrator and chief clerk.
In his presentation, Derr went over the county budget and explained some of the numbers. One of the biggest takeaways was the reduction of the county's pension liability.
By the end of 2016, the county had a projected future liability of $135 million for York County employee retirement benefits, which include health care, dental, vision, prescriptions and life insurance. Pensions are handled separately.
In the last two years, that projected future liability decreased to $85 million thanks to the establishment of the OPEB trust, which stands for Other Post Employment Benefits (other meaning "other than pensions").
The trust is an investment fund that will allow the county to collect a higher rate of return.
The current OPEB trust had $7.4 million prior to the sale of Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. About $21 million from the proceeds of that sale will be added to the investment fund.
The county's greatest financial benefit from the sale wasn't the $32 million sale price, Derr said, but instead the elimination of the annual operating subsidy the county paid to Pleasant Acres. In the last 10 years, those subsidies amounted to about $80 million, he said.
Redevelopment: Kevin Schreiber, president and CEO of the York County Economic Alliance, discussed the $19.4 million awarded to York County through the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.
The funding will be used for six major development projects in the county, including the historic preservation of the Yorktowne Hotel in downtown York City, and Keystone Kidspace, a children's educational programming center to be headquartered in the historic National Guard Armory, also in downtown York City.
Schreiber also noted the county's 3.8 percent unemployment rate.
"We have so very much to be optimistic for in our county," Schreiber said.
Awards: The county commissioners presented two employee awards at the end of the night.
The Young Professional of the Year award was presented to Deputy Coroner Matthew Groft. Mark Flaharty, agricultural resource conservationist with the York County Conservation District, was presented with the Team Player of the Year award.
Other speakers at the event were Dover Area School District Superintendent Tracy Krum and state Rep. Seth M. Grove, R-Dover Township.
Before the formal presentation, several agencies and organizations set up tables in the halls to speak with attendees, and two student music groups performed.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a corrected explanation of the county's OPEB trust.