County raises property taxes for 2017
- York County's 2017 budget includes 12 percent increase to property tax millage rate.
- Second consecutive increase caused, in part, by increased operating costs of nursing home, CYF.
- Commissioner Chris Reilly suggests selling nursing home could save taxpayers in 2018 and beyond.
For the second consecutive year, York County Commissioners have approved a budget calling for a sizable property-tax increase.
The property tax for 2017 will be raised to 5.8 mills, about a 12 percent increase over 2016. The millage rate was increased about 14 percent last year after remaining flat four of the previous five budgets.
The average York County homeowner — with a home assessed at $131,705 — will see an $84.29 increase in their property taxes next year as a result.
More than expected: The increase approved Wednesday is more than originally anticipated. The preliminary budget, presented Nov. 24, had suggested a 5.44 millage rate to address a $7.3 million deficit.
County administrator Mark Derr pointed to numerous reasons for the large difference, including: $1.6 million in additional employee benefits, $1 million added to the reserve for repairs to the prison roof, $2.4 million in added reserves for the county-owned Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and $2.5 million in additional costs to fund the county's Office of Children, Youth and Families.
Derr said CYF staff informed commissioners about the increased funding need on Monday, and it relates to a delay in state funding.
The state Department of Human Services funds a majority of county CYF services, but the state determines its budget on a fiscal year, while the county uses a calendar year.
As the county waits to learn how much state funding it will receive for CYF services — the office has requested 37 additional positions in the midst of struggles related to a spike in child-abuse reports — it will be on the hook for $13.3 million in 2017.
The commissioners unanimously approved the 2017 budget, which predicts more than $234.2 million in total expenses, about $21.5 million higher than last year's budget.
Commissioner Chris Reilly, who was first elected in 1995, said the county's tax increases are historically modest, but the need for increases is cyclical because of population trends, unforeseen expenses and a general rise in the cost of doing business.
Reilly said the county has been very unlucky this year, pointing to a federally mandated upgrade to the 911 radio system, CYF and Pleasant Acres as the primary cost drivers.
Nursing home: Reilly singled out Pleasant Acres as a "financial disaster," and he said he would not vote for another property tax increase unless they sell the nursing home or eliminate its structural deficit, which amounts to about $7.5 million.
Reilly said a previous study concluded the county could expect to receive $35 million from selling Pleasant Acres. Reilly said that influx plus the savings from not operating it would likely lead to a reduction in taxes.
"This is not a reflection on the level of care (at Pleasant Acres)," Reilly said. "It's just a financial loser."
The county did incur a $140,000 fine levied by the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services for an infraction found during a July inspection of the nursing home, according to county spokesman Mark Walters, who said the infraction has since been corrected.
A review of the July inspection report shows that the state Department of Health had determined Pleasant Acres "failed to provide treatment to promote healing and prevent infection for a pressure ulcer" for one of its residents.
The county budgeted more than $8.1 million in 2017 to operate the nursing home, a $430,000 increase over 2016 despite the state recently implementing a Medicaid financing program to draw more federal funds for county-owned facilities.
Added positions: After the preliminary 2017 budget was released, Derr had suggested commissioners could choose to reduce the projected property tax increase by cutting some of the $1.68 million set aside to hire 42 new employees.
Commissioners ended up approving most of the additional positions, allocating $1.5 million for new hires for the prison, coroner's office and the information services department, among others.
Derr praised the commissioners' decisions, which he said would help ensure the county's long-term financial stability and provide needed services to residents.