No tax hike in proposed Clarion County budget

The proposed 2019 Clarion County budget has apparently met with approval from county citizens.

“It has been very quiet this year,” County Commissioner Ed Heasley said at Tuesday’s commissioners meeting.

“I have heard no complaints,” Commissioner Wayne Brosius added.

That is not too surprising with a proposed budget that doesn’t raise taxes and provides for a healthy fund balance of $500,000 entering 2019.

The $18,340,152 budget is supported by a millage rate of 20.5 mills with 1.5 mills for debt service and a $5 per capita tax.

The budget includes a spending plan for each of the county departments and row offices such as the commissioners office. The commissioners’ $528,230 budget includes items normally found in a budget such as salaries, benefits, Medicare and medical and life insurance, but also a line item for open records expenses, gasoline, equipment and vehicles.

The other row offices are structured along similar lines.

The treasurer’s office has a streamlined budget of $135,230.

The budget for other row offices, such as the sheriff’s office, requires funding for special equipment such as uniforms. The sheriff also provides transportation, and those costs include $13,000 for gasoline alone.

Other mandated services, such as elections and voter registration, also carry a significant cost. The salaries and benefits along with building rate and other costs total $155,714.

Some of the services offered by the county are partially funded with state funding, including Children and Youth Services.

The Human Services department has a total budget of $894,568, but part of that cost is through an Act 148 match. The Clarion County Food Bank has $6,000 in pass through funds.

In addition to salaries and benefits, the public defender’s office pays for investigators, court reporters and travel.

The “miscellaneous government” section stands at $2,110,194, which includes several large line items that include $828,595 for capital expenses and $216,000 in motel tax grants. This is a tax placed on room rentals, which is collected by the county and awarded to various activities designed to increase tourism.

Also included in this section is a contingency reserve of $213,000, including $111,500 in a sinking fund.

Projected capital expenses include a leased car for the commissioners office ($7,780), an SUV lease for the sheriff’s department ($10,345), a plow truck for the corrections department ($39,000), a dog tag machine for the treasurer’s office ($2,265), chairs for the district attorney’s office ($1,000) and other items.

The judicial branch of county government includes the district judges, district attorney, public defender and other, less well-known items such as booking costs and security. The total budget for that office next year is $273,880.

The district attorney’s office has an annual budget of $668,755, but a portion of that cost is reimbursed by the state.

The county’s corrections budget, which funds the Clarion County jail, is a major expense – $2,630,174 for 2019. In addition to salaries and benefits, the jail costs includes uniforms, kitchen supplies, medical and food costs.

The county’s 911 emergency system costs $744,098, but those costs are reimbursed by the 911 fund.

The commissioners are expected to adopt the budget at their next meeting on Tuesday.