Blair County finances in good shape

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County’s 2018 mid-year financial report shows revenue in line with budgeted amounts and expenditures under projections.

“We haven’t had any surprises to date,” county Finance Director Jen Sleppy said Tuesday while presenting the report at the weekly commissioners meeting.

Revenue through June 30 — which includes 2018’s real estate tax payments — adds up to $38.2 million while expenses through the same timeframe are at $24.4 million.

By the end of the year, the revenue and expenditures will be much closer. And if revenue exceeds expenditures, the county will have more money for its reserve fund that has been dwindling in recent years.

“I think today’s report shows we’re moving in the right direction … as we try to turn this fiscal ship around,” commissioners Chairman Bruce Erb said.

When commissioners worked on the 2018 budget last year, they had difficulty based on projected expenses and their plan to contribute $4 million from the general fund to the county’s underfunded pension plan.

To make the 2018 budget balance, commissioners levied a 25 percent increase in real estate taxes. That increase came on top of a 10 percent increase commissioners levied for 2017, when property owners were dealing with new values assigned through the county’s reassessment project.

Sleppy offered no prediction on the 2019 budget, but assured commissioners that her report provided “a very positive picture for the county right now.”

Sleppy also said after the meeting that the county had no need for the $10 million tax anticipation note that it arranged in case it needed money to pay 2018’s bills before real estate tax revenue arrived in April.

“Paying back the TAN won’t be a concern because we didn’t need any of it,” Sleppy said.

While the major portion of this year’s real estate taxes are paid, Sleppy’s report showed delinquent tax payments as lagging.

There will be more delinquent tax revenue coming in through the end of the year, Beam said.

Commissioner Terry Tomassetti also mentioned that if the state lawmakers were to give counties another pension plan option — in addition to the defined pension plan that is currently required — that could make a difference in future budgets.

The financial report also identified salaries, at $6.85 mil­lion, as the largest expenditure category for the first half of the year.

The department with the largest expense for the first half of the year is Children, Youth & Families at $6.42 million, with about 80 percent of that amount to be reimbursed by the state.

The department with the second-largest expense for the first half of the year, at $3.7 million, was the prison. Sleppy said it is currently at 5 percent under budget.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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