County adopts $24.8M budget

BY STACI WILSON

Susquehanna County’s 2013 tax millage holds steady at a total of 10.83 mills but taxpayers will see their out-of-pocket payment decreased thanks to Act 13 revenues.

The commissioners adopted its $24.8 million budget at the Wednesday, Dec. 26 meeting.

The 10.83 total millage breaks down to 10.5 mills going to the county and .33 mills allocated for the library system.

Although the total budget is higher than in past years, $3.9 million of it is Act 13 dollars.

Part of the impact fee money was allocated to reduce county taxes by one mill, explained Commissioner Alan Hall.

At a previous meeting, the commissioners approved Act 13 revenue commitments, including about $840,000 to bring about one mill worth of savings to county taxpayers.

Hall said that, when the Act 13 revenue is left out of the equation, the overall county budget has been reduced by about $3 million for 2013.

“Everyone did a super job at controlling costs,” Hall said.

In addition to enabling the one mill decrease, Act 13 revenue was also used to fund a variety of county programs, with funds allocated to law enforcement and ag easement programs.

The commissioners also opted to bolster the county pension fund, contributing an extra $1.5 million from impact fee money to reduce underfunded liabilities in the plan. The $1.5 million contribution will be paid in addition to the $1 million paid out in previous budget years.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Vera Scroggins asked if the tax rate had been reduced in the past.

Commissioner Michael Giangrieco said county taxes had been reduced three times in the past five years.

In other business, the commissioners accepted, with regret, the resignation of Patrick Ahearn from the Susquehanna County Planning Commission, effective Dec. 24.

Ahearn had served as chair of the planning commission board until the time of his resignation.

Two reappointments and one appointment was made to the Susquehanna County Conservation Board of Directors.

Daniel Farnham was reappointed to serve as a Public Director, with a term of Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, 2016. Lillian Theophanis was appointed to also serve as a Public Director, with her term also expiring Dec. 31, 2016.

Commissioner MaryAnn Warren was re-appointed as the Commissioner Director for a one year term, expiring Dec. 31, 2013. Warren abstained from the vote on her reappointment to the position.

Meeting attendee Bruce Paskoff asked if the appointments to the Conservation Board were paid positions.

Hall said the Board is comprised of volunteers.

The commissioners approved a three-year renewal for Lexis Nexus, legal research materials available to people incarcerated in the county jail.

The contract, recommended by Warden Nicholas Conigliaro, carries a price tag about $500 per month, topping out at about $529 per month in the third year of the contract.

Giangrieco asked Chief Clerk Sylvia Beamer to what extent the service was being used by inmates.

Beamer said that although the service is not used extensively, the county is required to provide access to the legal materials.

If the materials are not made available to inmates at the correctional facility, Beamer said, the county would have to pay for a corrections officer to accompany and sit with an inmate in the Courthouse law library.

The bottled water and cooler bid was awarded to J&J Springs, New Milford, for a period of two years.

The commissioners also signed a $1,460 maintenance agreement with Reed’s Generator Service, Jackson Twp., for the inspection and preventative maintenance on generators at the Jailhouse, Courthouse, Fairgrounds, County Office Building, Pig Pen Alley and the Friendsville tower.

Emergency repair service rates were also approved with rates ranging from $63-$140 per house depending on the day and time of the service call.

The commissioners also acknowledged the termination of Jonathan Cronk by Prothonotary Susan Eddleston, effective Dec. 14; and Sonja Bomersheim was terminated by the commissioners from the position of Assistant Director of Elections/Assistant Voter Registrar, effective Dec. 18.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, Bruce Paskoff said the recent increase of the county solicitor’s salary from $25,000 to $35,000 due to an increase in right-to-know requests filed in the county was “a travesty in my personal opinion.”

Vera Scroggins asked if there is an increase in crime in Susquehanna County and if the commissioners would look into a impact study similar to one she said Bradford County has done.

Hall said domestic disturbances are on the rise, and the number of DUI’s in the county is up, explaining that with the county’s DUI Task Force at work “a lot more people get caught.”

“No study is needed at this time,” Hall said.