Commissioner proposes improved budget process

Tomassetti says he wants to provide public with more meaningful budgetary info

Blair County Commissioner Terry Tomassetti proposed measures to improve the county’s budgeting process going into next year and to provide the public with more meaningful budgetary information.

“Despite its best efforts, the county did not provide the public with meaningful details until after the adoption of the 2018 budget,” he said during the commissioners meeting Tuesday.

Tomassetti requested his proposal be placed on upcoming agendas for discussion, with the aim of adopting a budgetary process policy.

His proposed process would include ways to include the public and gain taxpayer input before a budget is adopted. Specifically, the process would include:

– A presentation and budget message by commissioners on the annual operating budget on or before Oct. 1 of each year that would explain the county’s budget in fiscal terms as well as in terms of programs and services.

– Three evening public hearings on the budget would be scheduled between Oct. 10 and 30 of each year.

– A budget would be introduced by no later than Nov. 15, and adoption of the budget would be achieved no later than Dec. 15.

In addition, Tomassetti’s plan calls for the commissioners to prepare and submit annually a comprehensive long-range operational and capital plan covering the next three years for public services, capital improvements and fiscal policy. That annual three-year plan would ideally be adopted 60 days prior to the Oct. 1 presentation on the budget.

Tomassetti said his proposal essentially holds the commissioners’ “feet to the fire” to have budget steps completed at scheduled dates to help the public better understand what is happening. He was supported Tuesday by fellow commissioners.

“It is a logical follow-up to the steps we took this year, putting the budget on our website and holding public hearings,” Erb said.

Ted Beam Jr. agreed.

“It is a logical proposal,” Beam said.

The county balanced the 2018 spending plan of $64.45 million with a 0.79-mill real estate tax increase.

Without the increase, the county would have been $7.08 million short of paying 2018’s bills.

The increase took the 2017 rate of 3.135 mills to 3.925 mills in 2018. It equates to about a 25 percent increase in county taxes — the largest since 2007. On a property valued at $100,000, county taxes will be $79 higher in 2018. On a property at $150,000, the higher rate means an increase of $118.50, taking the annual bill from $470.25 to $588.75.

In December, Tomassetti first asked commissioners to consider a change in budget-planning procedures for the 2019 budget that could give taxpayers more input and commissioners a chance to think about things they didn’t consider.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.