Expenses spike in Westmoreland's $333M early budget
Westmoreland County commissioners announced Thursday they won't raise property taxes but offered few specifics about how they plan to cut a $16.5 million budget deficit projected for 2013.
Commissioners detailed a $333.3 million preliminary budget that dramatically raised expenses, despite flat revenues in the wake of state spending cuts.
“This is a wish list, and our job in the next five weeks will be to cut this down as close to the bone as possible. It's going to be a heck of a lot less,” Chairman Charles Anderson said.
Fifty-one percent of expenditures are dedicated to human service programs.
Nearly two-thirds of the budget pays for services, mandated by the state, that commissioners have no discretion to cut.
Commissioners carved out a $127 million general fund to pay for general county operations. That portion of the spending plan can be altered. The general fund counts on $110 million in revenues from property taxes and other fees.
Anderson said service cuts and staff layoffs will be considered to reduce spending.
“Everything is on the table. Nothing is off limits,” Anderson said.
Real estate taxes, though, would remain unchanged from the current 20.99 mills, Anderson said.
Democratic minority Commissioner Ted Kopas said he wants to see substantial spending cuts in the final budget, slated for approval on Dec. 20.
“A deficit of this magnitude is totally unacceptable. We have a lot of work to do,” Kopas said.
As it stands today, the county would need to tap into its $37 million surplus to balance the budget, leaving a $20 million safety net for years ahead.
While commissioners declined to reveal specific cuts that could be made, officials traditionally have trimmed spending by reducing capital costs.
The proposed budget lists more than $5.3 million in capital projects. Those include the purchase of 11 vehicles, $1.5 million for new court buildings for magistrates in West Newton and Scottdale, furniture for the adult probation office and an $800,000 project to renovate the vacant waste-to-energy plant in Hempfield that was shuttered more than a decade ago.
In February, the Republican majority passed its first budget, a $315 million spending plan that used $7.7 million from the surplus fund.
Republicans Anderson and Tyler Courtney reopened the budget after taking control of the county commission from the Democrats, which held the majority for nearly six decades.
In December 2011, Kopas and former Commissioner Tom Balya passed a $313 million balanced that included 15 percent across-the-board spending cuts.
The Republicans said those cuts were punitive and not crafted to operate county government efficiently.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Behind Liriano, Pirates complete sweep of Diamondbacks
- Crosby, Malkin want to remain in Pittsburgh
- Injured Penguins optimistic about returning next season
- McCain renews push to have military, not CIA, manage drone strikes
- Boy, 15, charged with firing shots in Brighton Heights
- McKees Rocks fire displaces 2 residents
- Israel thwarts terrorist attack
- Penguins notebook: Crosby to play in worlds for 1st time since 2006
- United States aided rebels in Caucasus, Russian President Putin claims
- NASA head tells Pitt grads their generation will ‘walk the face of Mars’
- Spirit Airlines lifts fortunes of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport