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York County commissioner candidates on cost savings
Three Republicans and an equal number of Democrats are running for three seats on the York County Board of Commissioners in the 2015 election.
On the Republican ballot, incumbent Chris Reilly will face challengers Susan Byrnes, a health activist, and Kelly Henshaw, a Red Lion councilman.
On the Democratic side, incumbent Doug Hoke will face challengers Henry Nixon, a York City councilman, and Duane Hull, a former Dover Township supervisor.
The top two vote-getters in the May 19 primary from each party will advance to the general election in November.
Sitting President Commissioner Steve Chronister has said he plans to run as an Independent in November; he withdrew from the Republican ballot when his nomination petition was challenged.
As part of its election coverage, The York Dispatch asked each primary candidate a series of questions on issues the county faces. We will publish the candidates' answers to one question each Monday until the election.
Question: County commissioners last increased the property tax rate in 2013. At the millage rate of 4.52 mills, which includes the 0.10 mill library tax, the owner of a home assessed at $150,000 pays $678 a year.
How would you rate the job the county has done in providing adequate services at a reasonable cost to taxpayers? Are there cost-saving avenues you would explore to help keep the property tax rate as low as possible?
Doug Hoke: I believe the county commissioners have done a responsible job in holding the rise on taxes, especially in light of the dire economic conditions we have endured over the past several years. The tax increase in 2013 resulted from a significant decrease in state funding, which affected the quality and amount of service available to our citizens.
•Over the past several years, our county has benefited from an upgrade of our credit rating. We have taken advantage of lower interest rates by refinancing several pieces of our outstanding debt, saving taxpayer dollars.
•I will continue to explore all options of enhancing our financial position, emphasize effectiveness in operations, and streamline county government in ways that will save tax dollars but maintain adequate levels of service to the residents of York County.
Duane Hull: As county commissioner, I would always look for cost-saving avenues, however there are times when you have a cost for doing business.
Henry Nixon: The county is to be credited for our low tax structure. But, there are some areas where the county has failed to provide the type of adequate services we should expect.
Child abuse continues to be a serious issue — is Children and Youth adequately funded to deal with this terrible problem? Heroin use and drug addiction has risen to a crisis level. Many of our veterans have been allowed to fall between the cracks through benign neglect.
Are we to stand by proudly, having among the lowest county taxes, while children are being maimed for a lifetime, our young men and women being killed by drugs and our wounded warriors given less than what they deserve? Has the county taken a leadership role in economic development for our boroughs and municipalities that face blight, dwindling tax base and all the attendant ills that brings to bear?
I will refer back to my business experience, an independent audit of county programs may reveal cost saving measures. With all due respect to our current commissioners, they have not seen to their most important obligation: to provide for the health and safety of every York County resident. Maintaining the status quo is not a strategy for the future health and growth of our county.
Susan Byrnes: The county is doing an adequate job in providing services at a reasonable cost. That said, there are always ways to improve efficiencies and reduce costs.
Serving as your York County commissioner, I would lead an effort, with the Directors of the 48 York County Government departments and our 2,700 employees, to identify gaps and insufficiencies and then ask how jobs can be more efficient and effective. I would then act on their ideas.
Because of my 26 years experience with collaborative work, I have a solid working relationship with the members of the state delegation. I would secure their support to keep the property tax rate as low as possible.
Kelly Henshaw: I believe that tax increases should always be the absolute last option for any elected official. The decision to place an additional burden on our friends and neighbors is one that must be taken with the utmost seriousness.
However, as a borough councilman for nearly a decade, I know how challenging it can be to balance a municipal budget. In the day and age of increased healthcare costs, rising salaries, and a pension crisis that continues to go unanswered by our leaders in Harrisburg, it can be terribly difficult to balance a municipal budget.
I do believe the county commissioners have done a fair job of maintaining adequate services at a reasonable cost. This doesn't mean that improvements can't be made though. If given the opportunity, I look forward to bringing a fresh set of eyes to the county budget and ensuring that every possible option is exhausted and every penny of excess spending is cut before anyone even mentions a tax increase.
Chris Reilly: Excellent! But is always incumbent upon the board of commissioners to look for cost savings and ways to operate county government more efficiently.
— Reach Greg Gross at email@example.com.