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Report: Butler County finances on solid ground

| Saturday, July 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Butler County continues to benefit from Marcellus shale money, according to Controller Jack McMillin's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

For 2012, the county received $1.2 million in drilling impact fees, up from $900,000 in 2011. The county used a portion of that money to balance its 2013 budget that included a 1-mill tax increase, with commissioners saying that deficits at the emergency services center and the Sunnyview nursing home made the increase necessary.

At the end of 2012, according to McMillin's report, the county had 152 producing gas wells, up 81 percent from 84 wells at the end of 2011.

McMillin's report said there are some estimates that local gas well royalty fees, paid to property owners for gas produced on their property, could inject $100 million annually into the local economy.

“The county remains in reasonably good financial condition,” McMillin said. He said the one concern is that the county's rainy day money keeps decreasing over the last few years,

“It's something commissioners are aware of, and they're trying to mitigate it,” McMillin said, through steps including using some Marcellus shale money and reducing costs of county government.

County controllers produce an annual report that provides an overall picture of the county's financial position for the year and outlines various parts of the county, including its transportation systems, recreational facilities and historical and cultural aspects.

Population growth continues with migration from Allegheny County, the report said, with the U.S. Census showing a 5 percent population increase since 2000 to about 185,000.

Much of that growth has been credited to Cranberry and the Westinghouse Industrial Park in the township. Southern communities of Middlesex, Clinton and Winfield are also growing as they add infrastructure, the report said.

In all, the assessed value of taxable property in the county has grown from $1.1 billion in 2003 to $1.7 billion in 2012.

The report also highlights several businesses in Butler County, including its largest employer, Westinghouse, with more than 5,000 local employees, and AK Steel, with 1,500 employees; the county's second-largest private employer, Butler Health System, employs 1,800 health care workers.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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