Wayne County proposes 2021 budget

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 12/8/20

HONESDALE, PA — The Wayne County Commissioners have accepted a proposed budget that includes no tax increase for next year. The commissioners plan to adopt the budget on Thursday, December …

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Wayne County proposes 2021 budget

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HONESDALE, PA — The Wayne County Commissioners have accepted a proposed budget that includes no tax increase for next year. The commissioners plan to adopt the budget on Thursday, December 24.

The balanced budget of $35,553,008 is substantially lower than 2020’s approximately $37.7 million budget. Chief financial officer Vicky Botjer attributed the reduction chiefly to new accounting methods that “offset reimbursements from county agencies such as 911 and human services directly against the expenses, rather than showing the reimbursements as revenues and the expenses as gross numbers.”

The county estimated “very conservative” revenue due to the unknown effect that COVID-19 will continue to have on the local, state and federal economies, Botjer said.

“For example, [the] boarding of prisoners for other counties in our correctional facility, which has been a substantial amount in the past—we’re just not sure what that’s going to look like,” she said, adding that the county is projecting just modest revenue from the prothonotary and recorder of deeds office.

In order to balance the budget in the face of strained county services, the county will use an estimated $226,000 from its unrestricted fund balance. To limit in-person foot traffic, the court system, prothonotary, register of wills and recorder of deeds have purchased new software and technology. The upgrades—as well as other COVID-19 expenses like masks, hand sanitizer, thermometers, ionizers and barriers, and also hazard and overtime pay for front-line workers—have cost the county about $800,000 and have been funded through CARES Act money.

The budget does not include any expenditures for capital items or projects, Botjer said, however, the county’s energy-saving program, CARES Act funding and bond issue from early in the year have allowed for infrastructural and building improvements.

The largest chunk of the budget, 29.57 percent and more than $10 million, is going toward human services agencies. The other categories include public safety, 23.25 percent; general government, 19.36 percent; judicial process, 14.59 percent; debt service, 6.2 percent; conservation and development, 3.54 percent; public works, 2.37 percent; and culture and recreation, 1.13 percent.

“We’re very, very happy to have a balanced budget that’s conservative, that’s had some [expenditures] removed from it,” commissioner Joe Adams said.

The commissioners also gave Botjer permission to request interest rate quotes on a maximum tax anticipation note of $3 million. A tax anticipation note allows the county to fund its operations throughout the first several months of the year before real estate taxes are collected. Notes must be paid back by the end of the fiscal year and cannot be carried into the following year.

The commissioners also thanked and praised Botjer for preparing next year’s budget. They specifically noted that this has been her first year as CFO, and lauded her ability to learn the new position while adapting to the difficulties posed by COVID-19.

The public can view the proposed budget at the commissioner’s office during regular business hours or online at www.waynecountypa.gov.

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