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Blair seeks budget ideas

Residents urged to attend meetings, offer input on draft showing $4M deficit

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County leaders are asking local residents to attend public meetings where they can learn more about the county’s current financial picture and the 2020 draft budget.

While commissioners have yet to set real estate tax rates for the 2020 budget, the latest draft shows expenses adding up to $57.6 million, about $3.84 million more than the revenue estimated at $53.8 million, Finance Director Jennifer Sleppy reported Tuesday.

A number of options could be used to close the deficit.

To cover the $3.84 million difference would take a 12 to 13 percent real estate tax increase, according to Mirror calculations.

Another option would be to identify further budget cuts.

A third option could be to use reserve funds, although the county has been trying to increase its reserves.

Before Nov. 12, when commissioners intend to introduce a draft budget, some decisions have to be made so they’re ready with a spending plan that balances.

“We’re on a timeline, and it’s going to go fast,” Commissioners Chairman Bruce Erb said Tuesday after he and fellow commissioners Terry Tomassetti and Ted Beam Jr. heard Sleppy’s report at their weekly meeting.

In preparation for Nov. 12, the county has scheduled is first draft budget meeting for 6 p.m. today at Hollidaysburg Area Junior High School. Time will be allotted so county residents can ask questions and offer recommendations.

The county’s second evening budget meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at Tyrone Area Junior-Senior High School. A third meeting is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 24 at Spring Cove Middle School in Roaring Spring.

There’s always a lot of concern about the budget so county residents should make an effort to attend one of the meetings, Tomassetti said.

“This is (governmental) transparency in action,” Erb said.

Sleppy said the budget figures she presented Tuesday, showing expenditures exceeding revenue by $3.84 million, were calculated based on the following adjustments:

– A 20 percent cut to office, janitorial, general operating supplies and select maintenance expenses.

– A 15 percent cut to staff development budget requests.

– A 50 percent cut to requests for possible equipment repairs.

– A 30 percent reduction in health care reimbursement allocations.

– A 10 percent reduction in budgeted salaries to reflect the typical vacancy levels throughout the year.

– A 6 percent increase in health care premiums.

– A $4.5 million contribution to the county’s pension fund, as recommended by the county retirement board.

– 2.5 percent raises for nonunion employees and negotiated increases for union employees.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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