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Clinton commissioners discuss CCAP priorities for new year

LOCK HAVEN — The Clinton County Commissioners discussed a number of priorities for 2017 at Thursday’s meeting of the board.

The discussion was sparked by correspondence from the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, establishing key talking  points for county governments in the coming year.

The local board — Commissioners Paul Conklin, Pete Smeltz and  Jeff Snyder — said the priorities reflect a consensus of county officials statewide on the issues of  “highest  importance and greatest potential impact to counties. “

High on the  agenda of concerns was the  issue of human services funding and reform. The commissioners said they’ve seen a steady decrease in state funding – including a 10 percent cut in FY 2012-2013 across  seven key line items and noted that the burden has strained the county’s ability to meet service needs.

At the same time, the state budget impasse forced counties to take on the burdens of the state’s funding obligations for six months to avoid directly impacting clients. Conklin said  the current  budget climate in Harrisburg makes him fear that another round of  budget turmoil might be waiting  in the wings for state government.

Smeltz said increased mandates have  had an impact on Clinton County’s ability to serve the needs of the most vulnerable in the  county, and the state’s delays in delivering funding for crucial services ultimately falls on Clinton County’s taxpayers.

The commissioners are also closely monitoring the proposals for  tax reform moving through the General Assembly, and said  they support options that lessen the burden on property owners, without causing  an undue burden on other  citizens of the commonwealth.

The  board also said the commissioners support maintaining the shale  gas impact fee as a way to assure counties with wells will have the flexibility to deal with problems the industry’s activity has caused.

Finally, the  commissioners asked the state to discuss the ongoing devastating  impact the problem of substance abuse has caused in local communities.

Snyder said nearly 30 new child protection laws were enacted since 2015 and these regulations have caused significant increases in referrals and workloads to county child welfare agencies, without comparable state funding increases.

Property tax reform discussions are almost always focused on school property taxes. Conklin said county officials should be empowered to choose a balanced, equitable, and fair portfolio of  tax options based on local conditions.

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