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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Potter County Budget Next Focus Of Commisioners

Work Continues On County’s 2011 Operating Budget

budgetDepartment heads and managers have been asked to tighten their belts in making their requests for allotments in Potter County’s 2011 operating budget. Work on the spending plan began several weeks ago and will intensify immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Commissioners Doug Morley, Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover will conduct multiple line-by-line reviews of the budget prior to adopting a preliminary version of it in early December. At that time, the plan will be available for review and public comment prior to formal adoption.

With numerous steps having been taken to reduce expenditures during 2010 the commissioners are hopeful that, despite rising costs for state-mandated services during the year and less state reimbursement, they will be able to avoid an increase in the county’s real estate tax in 2011.

The commissioners have found sources of funding other than taxes — rental of office space to title searchers connected with the natural gas industry, for example — to help offset higher expenses. The board has also been able to reduce staff in some departments to cut payroll costs. Travel expenses have also been curbed.

At the same time, higher inmate counts at the county jail have propelled expenses there well beyond the $1 million mark, which is a significant portion of the county’s $7-million-plus budget for 2010. 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 costs 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.

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