Wayne County will be spending a little more in 2014, but property owners’ county tax bills will not increase.
Budget manager John Haggerty unveiled and the commissioners approved a $29.97 million proposed 2014 county budget at a special meeting on November 27.
The commissioners plan a vote to finalize adoption of the budget on December 19. Until then the plan is available for review online at www.co.wayne.pa.us  and at the commissioners’ office.
Haggerty stated there would be no tax increase despite a planned spending increase of $175,000 and “funding reductions in several state and federal programs,” administered by the county.
Commissioners’ chair Brian Smith said the spending increase and unchanged tax rate was made possible by a combination of revenues and savings.
While overall state aid has been reduced, state revenues for the housing of state prisoners at the county correctional facility have increased, he said.
The cost reduction came from a general improvement in the national economy, commissioner Wendell Kay said.
To keep a commitment to county employees that contributions to the retirement program will be kept stable during the economic downturn, the commissioners had supplemented program contributions for the past three years. With the economy expected to continue to improve, those contributions supplementing investment income have been dropped in the new budget. Investments have recovered to a “very positive position,” Kay said.
Some help should also be on the way for Wayne’s financially stressed libraries. Smith said aid to the libraries is increased 20 to 25%, some $50,000 in the new budget.
The budget does not provide funding for the Wayne-Pike Literacy Program (WPLP), which like the libraries, lost funding with Pennsylvania’s new block grant funding program.
Smith said the WPLP never came to the commissioners for help.
Unrelated to the budget presentation, the commissioners last Wednesday also certified financial reporting on county human services block-grant spending.
Wayne was one of some 10 counties selected as pilots for the block-grant funding. County officials say the block grants have allowed them more flexibility in funding, since specialized line-item eligibility for funding has been dropped. Portions of line-item funding not meeting eligibility issues had to be returned to the state in past.
However, the new flexibility came with an overall 10% reduction of so-called “C-Cap” state funding. While he supports the block grants, Kay admitted, “The cuts did hurt, but we complied and rung out everything we could. C-Cap funding restoration will help.”
The commissioners also announced that Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Peifer has notified Wayne that its application for grant funding for a baseline water quality study has been approved. Peifer did not include the amount that the grant would fund.
The commissioners expressed surprise at the interest in their bid request for the installation of a package sewage grinder at the county correctional facility. Ten bids, ranging from $82,000 to $168,000, were received and referred to staff for engineering review and recommendations.