The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 27, 2012

Cambria leaders vow to hold line on taxes

Sandra K Reabuck

EBENSBURG — The Cambria County commissioners pledged again Tuesday to hold the line on taxes in 2013 as they continue to work on the proposed budget that will be on public display Friday.

No figures were released, but President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder said, “It doesn’t appear that we’ve made any huge drastic changes” in preliminary figures submitted by elected officeholders and department heads.

Before Friday, the commissioners will be meeting with many of the elected officials to review budgets as they work with their staff and Controller Ed Cernic in developing the county’s new fiscal package. The proposed budget will be on display until its adoption at a special meeting Dec. 21.

The three commissioners, who took office in January, approved a revised general fund budget of $56.2 million, down $628,000 from the one approved by the outgoing commissioners in December for this year.

Taxes were held at the previous levy of 29.5 mills – 23.5 for general purposes; 4 for debt service; 1 for the community college; and one-half mill each for the county public library system and the county’s Duman Lake Park.

Gallagher contract changes OK’d

The commissioners, by a 2-1 vote, made two changes in the $100,000-a-year contract with a health-care consulting company that was hired a month ago on its promise to save the county $300,000 in health-care costs.

The agreement, which was effective Oct. 15, is with Gallagher Benefit Services Inc., a subsidiary of Arthur Gallagher & Co., which has offices in Johns-

town. The contract was protested by some employees, who were upset that the county’s health-care committee had not been consulted.

They said the committee – made up of employees and the county’s human resources director – has been reviewing the health-care contract for a number of years and has saved the county millions of dollars.

Although Thomas Chernisky, the Democratic minority commissioner, again cast the dissenting vote, he said that he was happy that the changes make two clarifications:

• The county could cancel the contract with a 30-day notice without being in breach of the contract.

• Gallagher will be paid only its fee and not any commission on savings. Although a commission had not been in the contract, it was felt the language was unclear about that possibility.

Chernisky had attempted unsuccessfully in October to have the contract tabled until other proposals could be heard and reviewed by the county’s health-care committee.

Lengenfelder has defended the contract, saying that it’s an opportunity for the county to save money.

Cernic: Gallagher not paid yet

Cernic said after the meeting that Gallagher has not yet been paid any of the first year’s $100,000 fee, nor has he seen any invoice from the commissioners’ office for it.

Cernic has said that it cannot be paid out of a health-care premium savings fund. If requested to pay, the bill would be held along with $1.1 million in bills he’s holding for payment because of year-end cash flow problems, the controller said.

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