The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


December 7, 2012

No-tax-boost budgets applauded

County governments do the right thing

— The commissioners of Cambria and Somerset counties have provided residents with a cheery start to the holiday season: Property taxes will remain the same in 2013.

We applaud not only the commissioners, but also the department heads and the county workers in general.

Tough economic times are affecting nearly everyone in our region. Wages have remained stagnant while costs for utilities, gasoline, food and other necessities have not.

Finding additional dollars to fund rising government services are increasingly difficult.

Businesses, industries, schools and government agencies all have had to do more with less resources.

In the case of Somerset County, no layoffs are anticipated, at least not at the present. Cambria’s leaders weren’t as assuring.   

Cambria’s tentative plan stands at $56.7 million, up a half-million dollars from a revised budget they adopted in February after taking office.

As reported by our Sandra Reabuck, nonunion and management employees wages will be frozen in 2013 while union raises agreed to in earlier contract negotiations will cost $750,000 next year.

“That was the only way we could pay for the wage increases. The true costs with increased retirement and related costs will be over $1 million,” Commissioner Mark Wissinger said.

Meanwhile, Somerset County, according to our Kathy Mellott, has unveiled a 41.4 million budget, reflecting a 4 percent increase over the current spending plan.

Of that additional spending, 2 percent is needed to pay wage increases spelled out in union contracts, along with hikes in health care and general operational costs, Commissioner John Vatavuk said.

The Somerset commissioners once again are dipping into their reserve funds to hold the line on taxes. Last year $1.8 million in reserve funds were applied to the budget; this year, it will be $1.2 million.

Putting in place county budgets without tax increases are a challenge. Making cuts in services or laying off workers aren’t easy.

Fortunately, the commissioners in Cambria and Somerset counties realize that now is not the time to raise taxes.

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