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December 6, 2012

Officials critical of proposed budget :

EBENSBURG — Cambria County Controller Ed Cernic Jr. said Thursday that he’s not only worried about meeting obligations and payrolls this month, but he’s convinced that the commissioners’ proposed budget for 2013 is unrealistic and will only add to Cambria’s fiscal woes next year.

He’s been joined by the other row office holders in raising concerns about being able to deliver services with proposed cuts in appropriations.

Cambria will need close to $10 million to pay all of its obligations in December and has only about

$4.474 million cash on hand in all accounts, the controller said.

Even with an anticipated $2.1 million coming from the state in December, that still won’t add up to the nearly $10 million needed, he said.

Top priority will be repaying the last $5 million due on the $10 million tax anticipation loan taken out in early January and the two payrolls for more than $1 million each, he said. Not meeting those obligations would send the wrong message to banks and to bond rating agencies about the county’s fiscal stability, he said.

The commissioners, he said, will have to find revenues somewhere.

Cernic and most of the county’s other elected row office holders delivered a letter to the commissioners’ office Thursday afternoon alleging that the proposed $56.7 million general fund budget “adversely affects our ability to maintain basic operating functions within our departments.”

They were reacting to the proposed budget unveiled last week by the commissioners, who have described it as realistic but challenging.

The officeholders said that the 4.75 percent – which the commissioners had struck from appropriations before unveiling the budget to the public – had been done after a meeting with the officeholders. They learned of those cuts by reading the newspaper, they said.

Those cuts “are an unrealistic solution to the budget shortfall and are not something we can realistically meet across the board without detrimental effects to our offices’ ability to function efficiently,” they said.

Saying that they had cooperated earlier this year with the commissioners in cutting costs by 5 percent, the officeholders said, “In light of the many cuts many of us worked to implement in 2012, we simply cannot make additional cuts across the board as you proposed.”

While not using the word “lay-offs,” the officeholders appeared to be suggesting that workforce cuts may be the only way the commissioners will have to meet the 4.75 percent rollback.

“The majority of our budget expenses go toward personnel costs due to contractual wages and benefit increases approved by the former board of commissioners. Essentially, this means that all of the cuts you propose will have to be operating costs that are necessary for us to successfully perform our duties,” they said.

It was signed by Andrea Fedore Sims, recorder of deeds; Susan Kuhar, clerk of courts; Patty Sharbaugh, register of wills; Debbie Martella, prothonotary; Lisa Kozorosky, treasurer; Dennis Kwiatkowski, coroner; Bob Kolar, sheriff; Kelly Callihan, district attorney; and Cernic.

The officeholders asked to meet with the commissioners along with William Stasko, the finance director, and David Knepper, the chief clerk and commissioners’ chief of staff, prior to the Dec. 21 budget adoption “so our concerns may be addressed.”

Cernic said that the 4.75 percent slicing of appropriations represents about $3 million.

Some of the larger cutbacks are as follows: $814,000 in contributions to authorities and agencies; $118,941, courts; $103,000, adult probation; $94,108, sheriff’s office; and $85,190, district attorney’s office.

“Throughout the year, we cut every expense we could to help out, and now to ask us to reduce another 4.75 percent or $3 million countywide is a disservice to us and the taxpayers of the county.

“The proposed budget is filled with numbers and proposed budget amounts that will not work,” Cernic said.

He predicted “The county will continue to bleed red ink until serious people take a serious approach to it.”

Any savings that were realized this year “have been overshadowed by extra staffing in certain departments (by the commissioners) and hiring consultants for a proposed foreign trade zone for importing at (a cost of) $20,000 and health care consulting at $100,000,” he said.

 

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