HARRISBURG, PA (November 23, 2016) – The Dauphin
County Commissioners today unveiled a $249 million preliminary budget that
holds the line on property taxes for the
12th straight year but warned
rising costs are a growing concern.
“This board has pledged to do all we can not to add to the economic burden of our
residents, but every year it is getting harder
to balance the budget without looking for additional revenue,’’ said
commission Chairman Jeff Haste. “We’re looking at using $12.5 million in
reserves to balance the 2017 budget, which shows the seriousness of challenges
The budget is open for public inspection over the next 20 days and the board is scheduled to vote on the
2017 budget at their public meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 14.
While the spending plan calls for using reserves, the county
anticipates maintaining roughly $21 in reserves – slightly less the
auditor-recommended 45-day operating budget. Maintaining sufficient reserves
was critical in 2015 when the county was forced to front almost $30 million in
human services expenses during the state budget impasse – a situation that some
warn could happen again.
Earlier this week, the County Commissioners Association of
Pennsylvania raised concerns about a potential state budget shortfall of
between $500 million to $1.75 billion. Such deficits could again pose problems with funding for critical
services dealing with mental health, child abuse, substance abuse, long-term
care and intellectual disabilities.
“The fact that we are looking at 12 years without a property tax increase shows this board’s commitment
to maintaining a conservative fiscal policy,’’ said Commissioner Mike Pries.
“In the face of rising health insurance and other costs, continuing to deliver
vital services while not asking our residents for more money becomes more of a
struggle every year.’’
As with other employers, the county’s health care costs
continue to rise, with a 12 percent increase to $21 million expected for 2017.
While the county’s decision to self-insure for health care saved an estimated
$10 million between 2009 and 2015, the county in recent years experienced
unexpectedly high claims, including several multi-million-dollar claims.
To help offset increases, Dauphin County has instituted deductibles and spousal surcharges for
employees who have health insurance through the county.
“Like other counties, Dauphin is forced to get most of its
revenue from property taxes and this board sensitive to the hardship that
places on many residents, especially our older homeowners,’’ said Commissioner
George P. Hartwick, III. “We never stop looking for more efficient ways to get
job done and we weigh the potential impact
to the taxpayer in every decision we make.’’
The county is also facing unanticipated revenue shortfalls in
the operation of its $4.2 million Judicial and Booking Center in Swatara
Township, which opened in 2013. A portion of fines and costs from arrestees
processed at the center were expected to cover costs, but this year the center
is projected to need $2 million and only
bring in $356,500.
County officials are looking at ways to solve the shortfall.
To view the preliminary 2017 budget, please go to www.DauphinCounty.org and click on 2017
budget info or visit the Commissioners’ Office, 4th Floor of the
Dauphin County Administration Building, 2 S. Second St., Harrisburg, where a
copy of the budget is available for public inspection.