JOHNSTOWN - Cambria County commissioners unveiled a preliminary $60 million 2014 general fund budget Thursday evening during a meeting at Ferndale Area Junior-Senior High School.
Finance Director William Stasko described the budget as flat, with little change in spending planned from this year to the next. There also will be no tax increases.
"It's as flat as we could get it," Commissioner Mark Wissinger said.
Stasko pointed to prison, court and related costs as comprising more than 50 percent of the county's budget.
A line-by-line budget wasn't available Thursday night, but an agency breakdown sets court funding at just shy of $8.3 million and prison funding at a little under $9.4 million. Total administrative costs exceed $3 million, and the district attorney's office will receive about $1.8 million.
President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder and Stasko also pointed to cost savings across the county.
Because agency directors managed finances so well in 2013, Lengenfelder said, commissioners were able to eliminate 4.75 percent across-the-board cuts that were necessary this year to help balance the budget.
It will not be clear until an outside assessment is performed whether a balanced budget actually will have been achieved for 2013, he said.
Losing two magisterial district judges starting in January will save an additional $70,000, Lengenfelder added.
Also in attendance was President Judge Timothy Creany, who said personnel reductions at the Cambria County Courthouse will save between $140,000 and $150,000 through next year.
Stasko said some county agencies have been able to improve their bottom lines through cost-cutting measures and increasing fees.
On the recommendation of Controller Ed Cernic Jr., Chief Clerk Steve Ettien said the county now will be setting aside $250,000 each year, a move which will help increase the county's bond rating.
A problem still lingers at year's end, however, Cernic said. While the county works to sort out 2014 budget issues, things still don't look good for 2013, he added.
If a behind-closed-doors $5 million bank deal, only previously hinted at by some county officials, falls through, the county will be unable to make a December tax-anticipation note payment.
Lengenfelder tried to talk over Cernic, saying the budget process is complex, but Cernic interrupted him.
"It's not complex. The county will default," Cernic said.
Cernic later said that even with the loan, the county is pushing off necessary payments.
"We're not going to be paying any bills. We still owe $2.3 million in unpaid bills" from as far back as late September, he said.