Indiana County finalizes 2014 budget with no tax increase
Indiana County's commissioners approved the county's general fund budget for 2014 at their regular meeting Dec. 18. The budget totals $32,276,643 in expenditures balanced by $31,500,938 in anticipated revenues and an opening balance of $775,705. The budget requires no increase in real estate taxes, which will remain at 37.4 mills, and the per-capita tax rate will remain at $5.
Of the real estate tax rate, 7.4 mills will be used for debt service while the remaining 30 mills is allotted to the general fund.
“We've actually reduced this particular budget proposal by $59,436,” commissioners Chairman Rodney Ruddock said, noting the county was faced with “a significant increase in costs which we didn't anticipate because of the Affordable Care Act. There was a health insurance charge that was placed on the county which increased our costs by 3.51 percent. Because of renegotiations with our healthcare providers, we were able to have them reduce that to two percent.”
The county's 2014 capital fund budget lists an opening balance of $209,204 and a projected $19,000 in revenue, with expenditures totaling $228,204. The liquid fuels budget for 2014 adds $651,085 in revenues to an opening balance of $658,512 allowing for a total of $1,309,597 in expenditures.
The meeting was the last for Commissioner David Frick, who had earlier announced his intention to retire from the county board at the end of the year. He was recognized during the meeting for his 10 years of service as a commissioner.
Joe Pittman, a representative from state Sen. Don White's office, congratulated Frick on his upcoming retirement and read a proclamation White submitted to the state senate recognizing Frick for his service to the county. State Rep. Dave Reed and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey previously sent correspondence congratulating Frick, and the commissioners presented Frick with a plaque on behalf of the county's citizens in appreciation for his service.
“All these people sitting here and so many other people along the way have made this a grand experience,” Frick said. “The whole thing has been a learning experience that I would like everyone to have. To live in Indiana County and have the experiences I've had is just unbelievable. I'm thankfull to the nth degree. God has been very good to me, as you all have been good to me, you sweet friends.”
Outgoing county coroner Michael Baker will replace Frick, effective Jan. 1, and will serve out the remaining two years of Frick's term after being recommended for the commissioner post by the Indiana County Republican Committee and being appointed by Indiana County President Judge William Martin.
The commissioners, at the recommendation of the county office of planning and development, Stantec Architecture and Engineering and Indiana Regional Medical Center, approved a $3,098,000 contract with the Limbach Company LLC for the Indiana Regional Medical Center Power House Infrastructure Upgrade Project. Work includes upgrading central systems, relocating chillers, adding a new emergency generator and expanding the power house. The project will be funded with a combination of money from IRMC and a state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant.
The commissioners also voted to submit to PennDOT District 10 the necessary authorization for a $600,000 Application for Encumbrance of Liquid Fuels Funding for eligible road and bridge projects. Office of planning and development Executive Director Byron Stauffer Jr. called the submission a “blanket” encumbrance and said specific projects using those liquid fuels funds would be recommended in months to come.
The county commissioners accepted a revised total of $116,768 in federal and state funding toward the identification of obstructions and acquisition of easements for future installation of an Instrument Landing System at the Indiana County Airport. A grant also is being requested from the state Bureau of Aviation. The Indiana County Airport Authority will provide a required local share of $2,995. The commissioners had approved a tentative allocation in the amount of $117,000 in September 2012.
The airport authority also gained commissioner approval for a change order adding $6,018 to its agreement with Ligonier Construction Company for installing sewer laterals for building sites and concrete risers for road drainage as part of the Airport Access Road project. The project, including additional costs associated with the change order, is being funded through another RACP Grant.
The commissioners modified the county's contract with the Indiana County Humane Society from the previous practice of four-year contracts to a year-to-year contract and approved a contract for 2014 totaling $40,000. Ruddock cited the society's plan to move animal shelter operations from the current location near the county emergency management agency offices to a site near the county airport as part of the reason for switching to yearly contracts.
It was noted that Blairsville-based Clark Metal Products, Inc. was recognized Dec. 13 by the Tri-County Workforce Investment Board as Indiana County's Employer of the Year.
“It was quite a nice experience and exposure for one of our most important manufacturing groups in Indiana County,” Ruddock said. “We honor businesses and we specifically bring honor to our manufacturing groups that really have done such a great job. Clark Metal has stood the test of time, and we congratulate them on the award.”
The commissioners approval a lease agreement, pending review by the county's financial manager, that would allow Verizon Wireless to place equipment on one of the county's emergency management radio towers in Banks Township.
“Each of these towers' responsibility was to provide public safety interconnectivity for safety and 911 service,” Ruddock said. “That was a primary function of what we did, but we thought it was important to also construct these tower locations in such a way that, if time and opportunity presented itself, we would be able to encourage a provider like Verizon to work with us to use that tower site to expand coverage in our community.”
Under the agreement, Verizon would pay a monthly stipend to the county and Banks Township. The stipend payments would start at $720 per month to the township and $1,080 to the county, Ruddock said, and would increase by two percent each year. The agreement is slated to run through 2038.
The office of planning and development and Indiana County Community Action Program gained the commissioners' approval for a revision to the Emergency Solutions Grant Second Allocation Program budget, eliminating funds designated for utility payments and utility deposits and reallocating those funds to rental vouchers and security deposits. The revision was necessary based on actual program costs and because landlords who work with ICCAP's rapid-rehousing program have agreed to include all utilities in their rents. The budget revision will allow the program to assist four additional households, according to the office of planning and development.
The commissioners also authorized submission of an application to the state Department of Community and Economic Development seeking $500,000 in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME Program funds.
The Indiana County board approved a pair of agreements on behalf of the Armstrong-Indiana Behavioral and Developmental Health Program. The first agreement approves Value Behavioral Health of PA, Inc. to remain the managed care organization for the program. The terms of the four-year agreement have not been substantially changed from the previous agreement with the company, AIBDHP administrator Tammy Calderone said.
The county board also approved an agreement between AIBDHP and Southwest Behavioral Health Management for consulting services, support services and oversight of the managed care organization. The agreement includes an administrative fee increase of three percent per year, Calderone said.
Two private provider contracts were approved on behalf of the county's Children and Youth Services, both for as-needed services. The commissioners approved LifeSpan Family Services of PA, based in Punxsutawney, for placement services and Mars Home for Youth for group-home placement services. The rates for both contracts remained unchanged.
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.