Higher property taxes in Westmoreland County ruled out despite $15M budget gap |

Higher property taxes in Westmoreland County ruled out despite $15M budget gap

Westmoreland County commissioners said Thursday that there won’t be a property tax increase next year despite a projected deficit of $15 million.

Commissioners revealed a preliminary $340 million budget for 2015 that anticipates declines in revenue and increases in proposed expenses, offset by dipping into the county’s surplus.

If enacted, the budget proposal would deplete the surplus fund to $10.7 million.

The surplus fund should end this year at $25 million.

“We will look at this closely and get as close to the bone as we can,” Commissioner Charles Anderson said of the preliminary budget proposal.

He said layoffs and service cuts could be explored.

Commissioners are expected to approve a final budget on Dec. 18. For the next month, officials will attempt to make cuts and reduce the projected deficit.

“This is a wish-list budget,” Commissioner Tyler Courtney said.

The proposed spending document includes more than $3.7 million in capital projects, many of which could be eliminated, according to county finance director Sandy Flanders.

It lists a $129 million general fund to pay for county operations not mandated by federal and state governments.

While tax revenues are projected to remain flat at $81 million, Flanders said, the proposed budget includes nearly $9 million less in revenue from state and federal sources.

The proposal includes a reduction in money the county expects to receive next year from Marcellus shale impact fees.

The county received about $2.3 million this year. That figure is expected to drop to $1.1 million next year, Flanders said.

Commissioners said they were disappointed the proposed budget carried a large deficit.

“This is an historic deficit that is unacceptable,” said Commissioner Ted Kopas. “We have 20 some odd days here to figure it out.”

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or [email protected].

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