Commissioners OK $42.4M preliminary budget

No tax increase in proposal

LOCK HAVEN — The Clinton County commissioners approved a $42.4 million preliminary budget with no tax increase on Thursday.

The vote by Commissioners Paul Conklin, Pete Smeltz and Jeff Snyder was unanimous, with the board underlining a continuing commitment to improveg infrastructure and make annual contributions to the employee pension fund.

Nonetheless, the budget was “very challenging,” the commissioners said in a joint budget narrative.

Final adoption is anticipated Dec. 22, save for a few “minor tweaks” in the next couple of weeks, they said.

A public inspection of the 71-page document will be available at the commissioners’ suite on the third floor of the Garden Building, and will be posted on-line at the county government site at

Cost increases were noted in a number of categories, and the board promised a full explanation of their spending decisions during the next three, Monday work sessions.

Those increases include, but are not limited to, wages, health benefits, contracts, the county’s portion of funding human services, and the annual required contribution to the retirement fund.

“These increases, along with our commitment to maintaining an appropriate fund balance, continuing to improve the county’s infrastructure, alleviating space problems and having to deal with a decrease or delays in certain revenues, have created challenges in balancing the 2017 budget,” the statement continued. “However, we have been able to budget for a very limited number of necessary new positions, including an assistant chief assessor, a human resources specialist, and a training-compliance coordinator” for the prison.

Smeltz said he has long favored the creation of a human resources director as a way of protecting the county from the increasingly complex rules and regulations governing worker relations.

The commissioners also decided to undertake a general obligation bond or loan to finance prison renovations, courthouse improvements, purchase of the Piper Blue Building, and to update the CAD system at the 9-1-1 communications center.

The chief assessor has projected the total value of taxable property in the county to increase from $2,044,536,572 in 2016 to $2,059,918,272 in 2017, providing an additional $84,239 in tax revenue for 2017.

The commissioners also noted the increase in the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes rate for forestland owned by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which was approved by the state Legislature in 2016. That increase should mean additional revenues of $250,000.

The prison budget is expected to be reduced by $168,000 in 2017 due to per-diem increases for state and federal inmates, and renovations designed to reduce staffing costs.

Finally, the commissioners underline that Clinton County was issued an AA-bond rating from Standard & Poor’s, the highest rating that can be achieved by a county or municipality.

The commissioners thanked staff supervisors and administrators for their frank looks at the various departmental budgets, saying they “recognize the hard work and dedication of our elected officials and department heads in managing their respective staff and budgets.”

The 2017 preliminary budget shows wages and salaries of $11.5 million, employee benefits of $5.2 million, operating costs at $11.5 million, capital outlay at $6.8 million, other financing at $4.5 million and debt service at $2.7 million.

There are a number of capital expenditures, and the commissioners promised a fuller accounting of those, along with personnel expansions, in the coming weeks.