Tentative Clarion County budget approved without tax hike

Clarion County commissioners unanimously adopted the county’s preliminary 2023 budget on Wednesday.

Although there is an $850,000 operating fund deficit, the budgetary reserve will be used to balance the budget.

Rose Logue, the county’s budget director, said $650,000 was inserted into this year’s budget but only half that amount was actually used.

At this time the county has a reserve of more than $7 million, Logue said.

There is no real estate tax increase in the preliminary budget. The last real estate tax hike in the county was in 2012.

Logue said she uses a worst-case scenario for both expenses and revenues. She said real estate taxes should be up about $87,000 in 2023, and at the same time an increase in expenses will be driven by hikes of seven to eight percent in health insurance and new labor contracts for the county’s union employees.

Non-union employees also received an increase in wages.

Logue said the county received an election integrity grant of $120,000 that helped offset the cost of elections.

The county has several other major expenses in the 2023 budget, and a $900,000 Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant will aid with the renovation of the courthouse basement.

The county will also be replacing the original roof at the jail, and work will continue on the old Sorce building.

The preliminary budget is available for public comment on the county’s website.

County joins digital age

In other business at Wednesday’s meeting, Jeff Smathers, the county’s public safety director, told commissioners the county has joined nine other counties in creating the first Next Generation 9-1-1 upgrade.

“This puts us way ahead of other states,” said Smathers. “It is huge step for Clarion County.”

The other counties involved in the upgrade are Erie, Crawford, Warren, McKean, Forest, Elk, Cameron, Jefferson and Clearfield.

“The upgrade brings Clarion County into the digital world,” said Smathers. “The old analog circuits and lines have been removed and now we are 100 percent digital.”

The old analog system has been in place for decades.

Smathers said Next Generation 9-1-1 is commonly referred to as NG911.

“The success and reliability of 9-1-1 will be greatly improved with the implementation of NG911,” said Smathers. “It will enhance emergency number services to create a faster, more resilient system that allows voice, photos, videos and text messages to flow seamlessly from the public to the 9-1-1 network.”

He added that “implementing NG911 in states and counties nationwide will require the coordination of a variety of emergency communication, public safety, legislative and governing entities.”

Smathers said the current 9-1-1 systems are no longer able to support the needs of the future.

“Currently there are difficulties in supporting such things as text messages for emergencies, images and video, support for American sign language users and access to additional data such as building plans and medical information over a common data network,” he said.

Smathers said the text ability is important because in some parts of the county a voice message may not be sent but a text message can be sent.

He said the new 9-1-1 center was developed with the NG911 in mind.

“It was a no brainer for us,” he said.


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