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Armstrong’s proposed budget increases spending, holds tax rate steady | TribLIVE.com
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Armstrong’s proposed budget increases spending, holds tax rate steady

Tribune-Review
| Friday, November 21, 2014 4:26 a.m.

Armstrong County Commissioners on Thursday adopted a $20.8 million preliminary budget that includes a 7.6 percent increase in spending and keeps the tax rate at 17.5 mills.

The amount of taxes collected will be $17.1 million, about $100,000 more than last year because of an increase in assessed property value in the county. The additional spending in the proposed budget will be covered with money from the general fund.

“We’ve been trying to hold the line on spending, but there are some costs that are out of our control,” said county Financial Advisor Carly Cowan. “We’re trying to keep things as stagnant as we can.”

Cowan attributed the $1.4 million increase in spending to inflation and rising costs of operations. For example, the cost of providing health care to workers increased 15 percent, to $200,500. A 3 percent salary increase for the county’s 183 workers added $162,000 to the budget. Spending on salaries will account for $5.3 million of the budget next year.

“We saw a lot of little increases throughout the entire budget, which really added up,” Cowan said.

One of the largest increases will come in the capital improvement budget for a computer server estimated to cost $95,000.

“It’s a large piece of machinery that’s very critical to our entire county computer network,” Cowan said. “We’ve been putting this purchase off and making do, but it’s at a point where it needs replaced.”

The county had to increase its funding for the 911 center by about $71,000 to make up for a shortfall typically supplied by monthly fees from telephone surcharges. The county receives $1.50 per month from each land line telephone and a $1 service fee on cellphones.

“The big thing is we’re trying to continue providing 911 services, but we’re seeing less money coming in because of the reduction in phone lines,” Commissioner Rich Fink said. “Something needs done to get that funding to keep coming in to the county after people drop their land lines.”

Commissioners are expected to vote on a final budget at a Dec. 18 meeting.

“Until we have that meeting, we plan to keep everybody working to try to firm up the budget numbers as much as possible,” Cowan said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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