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County unveils no-tax-increase budget for 2021

LOCK HAVEN — This last year has been one of heartache, financial despair and downright frustration.

But for most Clinton County residents, there is still a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, like family, friends and good health.

And for county property owners, there is one more thing.

It’s a no-tax-increase budget for 2021 unveiled by the Clinton County commissioners on Thursday morning.

The commissioners spoke only briefly about the $41.3 million proposed budget, but made it clear that a tax increase is not anticipated.

Real estate taxes will remain at 6.2 mills in the preliminary spending plan.

And as a matter of fact, each of the three commissioners — Miles Kessinger, Jeff Snyder and Angela Harding — went one step further, saying that this budget is not final and they are still working on it and looking for more places to cut expenses before final adoption expected on Dec. 17.

The county’s financial advisor Ed Zack said he is pleased with the preliminary budget and noted the interest of county department heads and chief clerk Jann Meyers — who were all highly involved with the commissioners in the budget process.

“I’ve worked in a lot of counties, and your county has shown more interest in the budget work than others,” Zack said.

Snyder said the spending plan shows the normal increases for wages and benefits, human services and retirement funds.

“We had some challenges this year with less revenue due to COVID, but we were committed to continuing to look at places to make adjustments to limit any tax increase. And we’re still looking,” Snyder said.

Harding said the preliminary budget was to be posted immediately after the meeting so residents can look at it.

“But it isn’t final. We’re continuing to work on it,” she said.

Kessinger noted residents will see a rather large expenditure over this year’s budget of $39.2 million.

The increase in expenses is due to the $3.1 million rail trail project, which is what he called a “pass-through,” with grant funding of $2.8 million coming into the budget and only $143,000 of the project going out on the revenue side.

“That’s why the budget looks higher this year,” he said.

In other business at Thursday’s meeting, the commissioners:

— Approved the advertising for bids for sale of used county-owned computers and electronics. Anyone wishing to view the equipment may contact Mike Duck of the county’s maintenance department to make an appointment, Kessinger said, noting that all the equipment will be sold in one bid.

“We’re not going to have a sale. We want to get rid of it all in one,” Kessinger said. The bid will be awarded at the Dec. 3 meeting.

–Approved agreements between the county Department of Emergency Services and Federal Emergency Management Agency Integrated Public Alert and Warning System programs regarding use of services for a three-year period, and the 2020-21 Hazardous Materials Response Fund Grant agreement with PA Emergency Management Agency.

— Approved a letter of request for a 60-day extension of the 2019 Emergency Solutions Grant. County planner Katie deSilva said the extension is not necessary, but due to COVID, the county needs to be flexible in making sure those who obtained funding have spent it.

— Approved an agreement with Wayne Township to use the township’s maintenance office and equipment by the Rail Trail construction inspector during the Rail Trail bridge project in Wayne Township. deSilva said the county is required to provide an office for the inspector and this action is basically a “hold harmless agreement.” She said the township office is near the site of the project and the county does not have anything in that area.

Harding said Wayne Township, both the landfill and the supervisors, have been helpful in getting this project completed.

— Appointed Charles Dotterer and James Harbach as Farmer Directors on the Clinton County Conservation District Board, each for a four-year term, expiring Dec. 31, 2024, and the reappointment of Harding as the Commissioner Director for a one-year term ending Dec. 31, 2021.

— Promoted Lori Rhoads from 9-1-1 dispatcher to shift supervisor at the Department of Emergency Services at an annual salary of $33,745.

— Approved payment of county bills in the amount of $871,885 for the one-week period ending Nov. 20.

County offices will be closed for Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 26-27. The commissioners will next meet for a work session at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 30.

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