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Westmoreland has $38M surplus on books

| Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Westmoreland County finished last year with a surplus of more than $38 million, bolstered by $4 million in unanticipated revenue, according to Controller Jeff Balzer.

Balzer on Tuesday released his annual audit of county finances. “I think the county is in generally good shape,” he said.

The audit revealed that general business expenses finished at $100.4 million, down from $102.5 million that was originally budgeted by county commissioners.

While spending was down, revenues jumped last year as a result of funding the county received in December from fees related to Marcellus shale drilling.

The county received $3.2 million from the impact fees.

The $327 million budget approved for 2013 by commissioners in December is expected to be balanced by using $5.5 million from the surplus.

Commissioners said future spending plans could be balanced without having to dip into reserves.

“We want to keep this rolling. My goal is to balance the budget,” Commissioner Charles Anderson said. “We've only been at this for 18 months, so we're early.”

In January 2012, Anderson and fellow Republican Tyler Courtney claimed the GOP's first majority on the board of commissioners in six decades.

Balzer's audit found that most county departments cut expenses last year.

Spending in the commissioners' office increased by about $23,000. Anderson said he was not sure why there was an increase.

Commissioners last year amended their budget by more than $2,000 for travel expenses paid to Courtney and Anderson. Democratic Commissioner Ted Kopas received no expense reimbursements in 2012.

The Republicans voted to spend an additional $1,200 to upgrade furniture in the reception area of the commissioners' office suite.

“It looks a hell of a lot better than it did before,” Anderson said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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