Wayne County Budget 2020 (proposed)
Human Services Costs Help Drive Up Budget, 2020 Taxes
HONESDALE (Nov. 29, 2019) -- The Wayne County Commissioners presented the proposed 2020 General Fund and Debt Service Budget for public inspection on Friday, Nov. 29, calling for a one mill increase in property taxes for the coming year.
The balanced budget call for $37.7 million in total expenses, and the document can be reviewed at the Commissioners’ Office during normal business hours and online. The Commissioners plan to formally adopt the spending plan on Monday, Dec. 23.
In 2018 and 2019, the County used a total of $1.5 million in Fund Balance surplus to balance the budget despite an increase in costs over several line items. The utilization of prior year’s surplus, enabled the County to avoid raising taxes, however, the Fund Balance cannot be drawn down beyond current level with out threatening the County’s AA- credit rating that will allow reduced borrowing costs for any future bond financing needs.
The 202 Budget includes continued and expanded investment in community and economic develop projects and initiatives to allow Wayne County to prosper and grow.
For the last five years, Wayne County has been faced with flat growth and little or no additional income provided from increases in assessed value. Building of new commercial facilities or new subdivisions for residential development have been limited. Meanwhile, funding needed to maintain mandated services and retain employees in the Human Service Agency (Children & Youth, Drug & Alcohol, Behavioral & Development Programs, Aging, Housing and Transportation) added approximately $1 million in costs to the bottom County’s line.
In 2012, the Commonwealth imposed a 10 percent reduction in funding for Human Services line items and have maintained a flat funded, zero increase over the past seven years.
The County has partnered with Wayne Economic Development Corporation and the Wayne Pike Workforce Alliance, as well as other community partners on several projects to enhance economic and community growth. The Stourbridge Project, a co-working space and business incubator continues to see an increase in participants and business development. Funding of the Wayne County Economic Development Fund captured$2.5 million in private match funding for 18 businesses to start or expand in the County and thus employ more people.
The recent Community Development Plan and Agriculture Study provided guidance for next steps for investment and the budget includes match dollars for a Dairy Plant Feasibility Study, Broadband Internet consultants and infrastructure. and the development of Hankins Pond Dam property, which the County recently saved from destruction by the Fish & Boat Commission.
The County has maintained a self-funded health insurance plan for more than 16 years. Self-funding, rather than paying premiums, for health care benefits has provided on average a 2.5 percent savings that has equated to more than $4 million in savings over the life of the plan. In 2019, the county planned for that trend to continue, but actual costs exceeded budget by nearly $2 million.
The opioid epidemic continues to have an effect on costs of county government. Individuals battling addiction have added costs to several departments within the Court system as well as Corrections, Children & Youth and Drug & Alcohol Services. Although progress is being made, the work continues and all agencies are committee to addressing this epidemic with partners in the community.
The Commissioners extend their appreciation to all the Elected Officials and department heads for their cooperation and assistance. The proposed budget is proof of prudent and effective government that continues to provide mandated and essential services. The departments maximize grants and available funding from federal and state resources to keep the need for local funding as low as possible.
As a Sixth Class County, the only source of funding for local government in Wayne County is real estate taxes. The County continues to work with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) and local legislators to gain new and expanded ways to generate funding at the local level that will reduce the burden on property owners.