York County approves 2018 budget with no tax increase
Doug Hoke, vice president commissioner of York County, discusses how the county was able to avoid raising taxes for its 2018 budget.
York County Commissioners approved the county's 2018 budget Wednesday, Dec. 6, with no tax increases, thanks, in part, to projected revenues outpacing projected costs in 2017.
Revenue is projected to outpace costs by about $4.1 million this year, and $3.1 million of those reserves will be drawn into the 2018 budget to maintain the real estate tax at 5.8 mills, which would equal $580 on a home assessed at $100,000.
Commissioners increased that tax last year, up from 5.16 mills, hoping to avoid a tax increase this year, and President Commissioner Susan Byrnes thanked administrators, department heads and employees for finding savings necessary to maintain that rate.
"We are really happy that we do not have to raise taxes this year and yet still provide (the public) with the dynamic programs and services that you expect from us," she said.
County administrator Mark Derr said he had expected the county to finish 2017 with more reserves, but a handful of unexpected costs, including a re-organization of the prison to add more officers, reduced that number.
The county had budgeted less than $51 million for the prison, which is now projected to cost more than $58.6 million by year's end, though about $4.6 million of that difference is for "indirect costs" that were offset by "indirect costs reimbursement" in prison revenue.
The county is budgeting about $61.3 million for the prison in 2018.
Having to draw down the $3.1 million to fund the nearly $250 million general fund budget for 2018 does not bode well for avoiding a tax increase in 2019, Derr admitted, but the county will work to implement cost-saving measures in an attempt to "hold the line."
Derr has said standard fiscal practice encourages a budgeting body to hold at least two months in reserves, which would be about $41.7 million. He said the county will finish the year with about $25-30 million in an "unrestricted fund" — meaning it can be used for anything — that serves as the county's reserves.
Commissioner Doug Hoke said avoiding a tax increase requires substantial effort because costs go up every year because of inflation, arbitration awards and cost-of-living raises.
"I think we were very positive this year in moving forward and got it accomplished," he said.
— Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that, according to Byrnes, the county would finish the year with about $42 million in reserves. Derr later told The York Dispatch that number was incorrect.
— Reach David Weissman at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.