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Armstrong commissioners OK 13% tax hike

| Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

KITTANNING — The Armstrong County Commissioners approved a slightly leaner spending plan for 2013, but that doesn't mean that county taxpayers will get a break on their tax bills.

Although the commissioners have trimmed about $303,000, or a 1.6 percent reduction in spending over this year — an $18.6 million spending plan for 2013 compared to $18.9 in 2012 — paying for a new emergency radio system for the 911 center will drive up county taxes by nearly 13 percent.

The approved budget also includes a proposed 2 percent raise for all employees and elected officials which will cost the county an additional $151,000.

That is a drop from last year which gave a 3 percent raise. The county's salary board will make the final determination on the raise amount in January.

The county is keeping the millage rate on real estate for general purposes steady at 12.5 mills.

However, the budget they approved on Thursday calls for a 2 mill increase on real estate for debt services from 3 mills to 5 mills.

The county's balanced budget has a combined property tax rate of 17.5 mills — up 2 mill from 15.5 mills.

“It became apparent when we came on board this year that we were given debt (for the federally-mandated 911 project) that we had to deal with,” said Commissioner Chairman Dave Battaglia of increasing taxes for debt services. “We are going to deal with it and move the county forward.”

One mill of taxes will generate about $949,000 in revenues for the county.

A property owner with an $80,000 home, with an assessed value of $40,000, will see their tax bill increase by about $80 from $620 to $700.

“All the departments worked very hard to bring the general fund budget into balance,” said the county's financial adviser, Carly Cowan. “Going into 2013 we're in a good spot.”

Seeing the most cuts in budget funding, that coming from state and federal funding which passes through the county, were the agencies, Children, Youth and Family Services (less $102,491 over last year) and Community Action (less $619,973).

Battaglia said officials remain dedicated to finding revenue sources for the county outside of taxation.

“We feel comfortable we will have some new revenue in the first six months of the next year,” he said.

The issue of whether to keep or abolish the two jury commissioners was not on the public meeting's agenda for a vote yesterday.

The commissioners, by not taking any action, allowed the elected office to continue.

Mitch Fryer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or mfryer@tribweb.com.

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