HOLLIDAYSBURG - Blair County real estate taxes will likely increase in 2013.
When the commissioners meet Tuesday, county Finance Director Robert Kuntz plans to introduce a budget with a 3.5-mill real estate tax increase to cover higher operating costs.
Commissioners, who reviewed budget numbers Thursday with Kuntz and some county department chiefs in preparation for Tuesday's meeting, have the option of refining budget numbers before voting in December to set real estate tax rates.
"I still want to fine-tune some expenses," Commissioners Chairman Terry Tomassetti said.
Commissioners Diane Meling and Ted Beam Jr. paged through Kuntz's figures in a similar pursuit.
"When I look back to see to where to cut," Meling said.
"There isn't a whole lot to find," Beam said finishing Meling's sentence.
Because the projected 3.5-mill increase will take the county's general fund tax levy beyond 25 mills, the county will be required under the County Code to seek court approval on the levy. Commissioners agreed that Chief Clerk Helen Schmitt should advise solicitor Nathan Karn to secure a court date.
If the increase is approved, it would translate into a $35 increase, from $286 to $320, for the owner of a property with an assessed value of $10,000, based on the county's last property assessment in 1958.
Six years have passed since Blair County levied the record 7-mill increase in real estate taxes to balance the 2007 budget when spending outpaced expenditures and the county had no reserve to make up the difference. Since then, commissioners have adopted five budgets without increasing real estate taxes.
Kuntz's figures show he came up with the proposed increase based on projected general fund revenue of $46.1 million and projected expenditures of $48.4 million, creating a $2.3 million deficit.
With the increase, the 2013 budget will show "a slight, slight surplus," Kuntz said.
In comparison with 2012 budget figures, Kuntz said 2013's projected revenue is up by 0.6 percent but expenses are up by 3.2 percent, which includes a projected 3 percent increase in wages, which equates to about $400,000, and a 10 percent estimated increase for health insurance, which amounts to about $614,000.
The 3.2 percent increase also reflects higher operating costs at the Blair County Prison, a funding change in the domestic relations office, a proposal by the sheriff department to convert part-time deputy positions to full-time, which would make the deputies eligible for health insurance, and projected increases for the care of juvenile delinquents and the maintenance of children in foster homes.