County Taxes Likely To Hold Steady; Chief Clerk Resigns

Potter County Today

budgetPotter County’s proposed 2011 operating budget will be made available for public review next week and is slated for final adoption on Thursday, Dec. 30. Commissioners Doug Morley, Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover continue to review the spending plan, which will top $7 million. Chairman Morley announced at the board’s meeting on Thursday that the commissioners are determined to avoid any increase in taxes next year, despite rising expenses in many areas. Costs for operating the Potter County Jail soared past the $1 million mark last year and continue to increase as the inmate count rises. With a larger volume of local prisoners, the jail is unable to accommodate prisoners from Cameron County who have been held in the local lockup for a daily fee, resulting in a reduction in income for the county. State-mandated human service programs are another big-ticket item in the county’s budget that is largely beyond the county’s control.

To cover the rising costs without a tax increase, the commissioners have reduced the county workforce, largely through attrition, and developed other revenue sources, such as the rental of space in the F. W. Gunzburger County Office Building. Travel expenses have also been curbed. Uncertainties big and small surround the budget preparation process. For example, the state still owes Potter County more than $100,000 in reimbursement for the district attorney’s salary in 2009 and an even higher amount for the DA’s 2010 salary. Health insurance cost increases are expected to reach double digits again in 2011. Four separate labor union contracts with county employee groups that carry over into 2011 will also result in higher expenses.

In other business at Thursday’s meeting, the commissioners accepted a letter of resignation from Todd Brown, chief clerk and director of administration. He has accepted a job in the private sector. The commissioners also discussed issues related to natural gas drilling with Laurie Barr of Roulette Township, who is concerned about environmental degradation as a result of increased gas production.

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