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HONESDALE -- The proposed 2019 General and Debt Service Budget for Wayne County calls for total expenditures of $33,037,143.30, and the Commissioners expect to be able to fund it without a real estate tax increase.
The balanced budget will be available for inspection in the Wayne County Commissioner’s Office during normal business hours and can be viewed on the county website. The commissioners intend to formally adopt the spending plan on Dec. 27. The millage remains at 3.99 for 2019. Income sources are derived from real estate taxes, user fees, costs and fines as well as state and federal funds. In order to balance the budget without a tax increase, the County will use an estimated $976,000 from savings -- known as the unrestricted fund balance -- for 2019.
Beginning in 2017 and continuing through this year, the County has invested in necessary plant and infrastructure upgrades by taking advantage of low bond rates and an Energy Savings Contract arrangement. Commissioner Chairman Brian Smith said the county took advantage of low interest rates to lock in the costs of a major physical plant upgrade that includes energy efficiency improvements that will generate significant cost savings for the general fund. Commissioner Joe Adams said the county has financed the improvements by extending the existing the debt service payments out two additional years, which allows the Commissioners to address a decades worth of upgrades without having to raise taxes.
Growth in Wayne County has been stagnant for the last several years; real estate tax dollars as well as job and population growth have been flat. The County is investing resources into Community and Economic development by assisting in match requirements for Community and Economic Development studies as well as match dollars for next-step-project feasibility studies. An Economic Growth Fund will be funded for the 3rd year in a row and a Community Development Investment Plan is being formulated to better connect private and public resources to move the county forward
"We need investment to grow business," Smith said. "The evidence is in the Stourbridge Project (business incubator). There are businesses operating there that will eventually move in to their own space and others will take their places.'
The Opioid epidemic continues to contribute to increased costs in budgets across judicial related offices, human services agencies, coroner and corrections. Wayne County Drug Court began in July, 2017 and currently has 17 active participants. The program spans 18 to 24 months of intense supervision and outpatient programming for offenders who are accepted into the program, the first graduates are expected in May of 2019.
Smith said the county does incur some additional costs to operate the drug treatment court initiative, which returns dividends by helping those individuals maintain employment and continue to pay their fines, fees and taxes.
The Commissioners would like to thank all the elected officials and department heads for their cooperation and assistance during the budget process. The entire team continues to provide the citizens of Wayne County with prudent and effective government, by implementing a fiscally conservative approach in meeting required mandates and providing essential services.
Commissioner Wendell Kay said the flat growth in the assessed value of property in the county generated only about $100,000 in new revenue, far larger than the need for the upcoming year. That's why the budget includes $976,000 in from the county's savings -- known as the unrestricted fund balance.
Commissioner Adams said the county also saves a significant about of money each year by being "self insured," meaning the county pays the costs of providing health care services and keeps an administrative free, which is less than what would need to be paid out as a premium for insurance.
Each mill represents $1 in taxation for each $1000 of assessed value. For 2019, a property assessed at $100,000 will pay $399.