Proposed Bradford County budget to be cut
TOWANDA - The proposed 2013 Bradford County budget, which will be available for public review starting today, will include no tax increase and will need to be cut further, the Bradford County commissioners said Thursday.
"The budget is overspent," said Democratic Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith, who added that cuts will need to be made to the budget over the next several weeks before the commissioners vote to adopt the budget on Dec. 20. "The budget has a long way to go before it is ready for passage."
"We'll be looking to reduce the size of spending throughout the entire budget," said Republican Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko.
Smith said he did not know yet the amount of cuts that will need to be made, as that number will depend on the amount of state funding the county will receive in 2013. Before the budget is adopted, the commissioners will be having additional discussions with representatives of state agencies to obtain further information on the amount of state aid that will be coming to the county, Smith said.
McLinko and fellow GOP Commissioner Daryl Miller had previously said they wanted to use most of the county's $8.4 million 2012 allocation of impact fee revenue to eliminate the county's debt, which would have decreased the county property tax rate by 6 percent.
But on Thursday, McLinko said that the elimination of the county's debt, and the accompanying 6 percent tax decrease, are not included at this time in the budget.
The three commissioners will be discussing over the next week how to use the county's impact fee revenue, and it is still possible that some of that revenue could be included in the budget to reduce the county's debt, McLinko said.
Asked whether the impact fee revenue could be used to avoid some of the budget cuts, McLinko said there are limitations on what the county can spend the impact fee revenue on.
"It's got to be used (spent) where the impacts were," he said.
Miller also addressed the same question, saying: "You don't want to take the impact fee money and start plugging it into your general budget and grow the size of government, because at some point in time, that money may disappear, and if it does, you'll have a huge problem on your hands. The budget has got to stay within the levels that are sustainable over the long term. The state found that out when they used the (federal) stimulus money to inflate the state budget, and then the stimulus money disappeared." And the impact fee money could disappear if a new governor were elected in two years, which might result in a natural gas severance tax being substituted for the impact fee, McLinko said.
At the meeting, Guthrie physician Karen Saylor asked that the medical contract at the Bradford County jail be put out to bid, and said she was interested in applying for it.
McLinko and Smith said they were both willing to put the contract out to bid.
The decision on who should hold the contract needs to be made very carefully, since the county is responsible for paying the inmates' medical costs, which could skyrocket if the wrong doctor held the contract, McLinko said.
A couple of companies have also contacted the county to say they are interested in the contract, Smith said.
The contract is currently held by Towanda physician Joseph Cama, and both Smith and McLinko said he is doing a good job.
McLinko said that Cama has been holding down the jail's medical costs.
The county would not have to accept the lowest bidder on the contract, Smith said.
Starting today, the Bradford County budget is available for public review at the counter in the Bradford County commissioners' office, which is located in the Bradford County Courthouse in Towanda.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org