HONESDALE -- The Wayne County Commissioners have released the proposed 2021 General and Debt Service Budget for public inspection. It includes no tax increase. The balanced budget of $35,553,008 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 budget on December 24, 2020.
The millage rate, if the budget is adopted without change, will remain at 4.99 for 2021. A mill is equal to $100 for every $100,000 of a property’s assessed value. County 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 $226,000 from the unrestricted fund balance.
The COVID-19 pandemic has strained many county services, including food pantries, the correctional facility and human service agencies. Wayne County has seen upticks in need for emergency housing, drug and alcohol services, children and youth services and behavioral health services. The county has continued to operate to ensure employees have, by and large, remained employed and providing the high level of services residents and consumers have come to expect.
Innovative, though expensive, software and technology have been purchased by the court system, the Prothonotary, the Register of Wills and Recorder of Deeds to limit foot traffic to those offices by allowing for digital access to records and remote court proceedings. The county has also purchased PPE supplies such as masks, hand sanitizer, thermometers, ionizers, office partitions and barriers to protect employees and members of the public. The approximate cost of those and other COVID-related response items including hazard pay, overtime and professional services was $800,000, funded through the CARES Act.
“As much as 2020 has been a struggle, we are very proud of our team here in Wayne County who have worked, perhaps harder than ever, under difficult situations and circumstances to keep county government operational. They have adeptly adapted to every mandate, order and guidance the state and federal governments have issued,” said County Commissioners Brian Smith, Joseph Adams and Jocelyn Cramer.
“A zero-tax increase budget was able to be attained because of prior infrastructure upgrades, utilizing low capital bond rates, and debt restructuring, along with energy savings, and removing most capital budget needs out of the 2021 budget. We have tasked department heads with finding cost cutting and controls, and efficiencies wherever possible and they have accepted the challenge with the best interest of taxpayers in mind,” commissioners added.