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York County's 2017 budget proposal currently contains a $7.3 million deficit that must be made up with a property tax increase, a decrease in services provided or a combination of the two, officials say.

As it stands, the deficit would be filled by 0.28 mill increase in property taxes, which would add about $37 in taxes on an average county home, valued at $131,705.

The current millage is 5.16 after county commissioners voted to increase property taxes by 0.64 mills last year.

County administrator Mark Derr said the increase was so high last year because the county had to deal with numerous expenses in 2016, including stranded debt from a new radio system for the 911 center and repairs to the prison's roof.

Even with that millage increase, the county still had to cut numerous positions to make up the deficit, Derr said, and he anticipates cuts could occur for 2017 as well.

Derr pointed to $1.68 million in the proposed budget set aside to hire new employees as a place commissioners might decide to make cuts.

That money would go to fund 42 new positions, including 10 in adult probation and 11 in the prison. The commissioners are  requesting to hire a finance/budget director, projected to cost $72,000 per year, which Derr said includes duties he currently handles.

Those figures do not include the 30 additional positions requested by the county's Office of Children, Youth and Families. The office has submitted that request to the state, which would cover about 80 percent of those expenses, leaving about 20 percent to be covered by the county.

The budget, presented at Wednesday's county commissioners meeting, included forecasts for the end 2016, which is projected to have a $1.9 million budget surplus.

Derr said he's advised the commissioners to use that projected surplus to pad the county's reserve funds. Counties are advised to have at least two months worth of budget funds in its reserve, but York currently only has about one month's worth, Derr said.

The overall expenses for the 2017 budget proposal are $224.7 million, about $12 million higher than expenses in the 2016 budget.

With no tax increase, the county's revenues are growing about $1.5 million per year. Derr said real estate taxes, the county's largest source of income, are projected to grow about $750,000 in 2017.

"This is due in part to the lagging residential market and in part to property values being lowered due to appeals," Derr said, adding that home foreclosures have also been up in recent years.

The county's expenses are projected to grow $8.5 million for 2017, which Derr said is primarily because of increases in personnel costs and general inflation.

The 2017 budget also shows a $1.5 million increase in hotel occupancy taxes collected after a state bill, passed in April, allowed the county to increase that tax from 3 percent to 5 percent. But the majority of that money will go to the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote tourism efforts.

The budget will  be available for public comment for a minimum of 20 business days before any action can be taken. It can be viewed on the county's website,  www.yorkcountypa.gov.

Derr said commissioners are expected to vote on a finalized version  Wednesday, Dec. 21.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.

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