The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

October 20, 2013

Distressing situation in county | Cambria is running short of money

JOHNSTOWN — This isn’t what folks in Cambria County who are already weary of talk about government funding issues are going to want to hear.

On Thursday – the same day that the federal government reopened after a 16-day shutdown that came about because of funding problems – our Kathy Mellott reported that the Cambria County government is facing its own debt troubles.

Cambria County Controller Edward Cernic Jr. told Mellott that he’s going to struggle to meet payroll for the final two months of 2013.

“We’re making payroll this week,” he said on Thursday, “but after that, I don’t know.”

That’s not an encouraging sign for the county or its residents. Neither is what Cernic has had to do to get the checks in the mail thus far.

Cernic told Mellott that the county has borrowed from the fund balances of its agencies to generate $2.6 million in funds to cover the payroll and the $1 million due for health care costs at the beginning of each month.

He’s had to use so much of that money that groups like the Area Agency on Aging are down to a $10,000 reserve. As of Thursday, the county had a general fund total of a little more than $100,000 and unpaid bills totalling $300,000, according to Cernic.

He also told Mellott that while he is expecting more incoming revenue in the form of state reimbursements for services provided by county agencies, nearly all real estate tax revenue has been spent.

The county has been in situations similar to this in the past, but not this early in the year, according to Cernic.

It’s a distressing sign when the county is essentially living paycheck to paycheck, even if it’s not entirely unexpected.

“We knew at the beginning of this year that for October to December money would be tight,” President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder said.

Lengenfelder and his fellow commissioners, Thomas Chernisky and Mark Wissinger, have been meeting to look at the 2014 budget.

“Last year we got our hands around the scope of the problem and some very smart folks are coming up with a long-term remedy,” Lengenfelder said.

We certainly hope that is the case. It would be a nice change of pace from the federal government, which still has no long-term plan for how to cure its financial problem.

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