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It took the Lebanon County Commissioners just 30 minutes on Thursday, Dec. 22, to work through a short year-end agenda highlighted by their unanimous approval of the 2023 budget.
County administrator Jamie Wolgemuth presented the $100,530,847 spending plan on Thursday for final approval. It was introduced on Dec. 2 and made available for 20 days of public review, as required by law.
The millage rate will remain at 3.8295, meaning $3.83 in tax for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.
While property taxes won’t increase, $2,118,384 of the county’s cash reserves will be used to balance the budget, according to Wolgemuth.
The county is holding the tax line, Wolgemuth said in a written statement, even though “significant cost increases continue to occur in areas like county support to Children & Youth, due to the ever-increasing demand for juvenile and delinquent facility placements.”
And, the county isn’t immune from nationwide labor shortages, which also raise costs, according to Wolgemuth.
“The County, like many employers, has struggled with labor shortages across most departments as well as recruitment and retention of valued existing employees,” he pointed out.
“In an attempt to stem the problem, the Commissioners have taken measures to attract applicants, such as increases in existing and starting salaries, based on a market study of wages in the surrounding area,” he added.
Another budget hurdle is health insurance. Wolgemuth noted that “employee health insurance premiums … are increasing by 9.4% for 2023, at almost $1,000,000, the second year in a row over 9%.”
The 2023 budget will fully fund the county’s pension plan.
Other county business
In other business, county treasurer Sallie Neuin reported that receipts and expenditures through Dec. 21 left a balance in the county’s general fund of $558,495.38.
Director of human resources Michelle Snavely recommended a number of personnel moves covering terminations, promotions, transfers, changes in full and part time status, and creation and elimination of positions at the prothonotary, district attorney, sheriff, and voter registration offices, as well as at the county jail and the Renova Center, the county facility that serves individuals with severe intellectual disabilities.
With one exception, the commissioners unanimously passed motions adopting all of Snavely’s recommendations. Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz cast the lone “no” vote on a motion eliminating the maintenance supervisor and mechanic positions at the jail.
The commissioners approved an agreement between the county and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Institute for maintenance and service of the institute’s Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification system, at no cost to the county.
SAVIN gives victims, police, and the public information on the release, transfer, or escape of an inmates housed in a county jail or state prison, or under state parole supervision.
The commissioners approved a revision to a lease between the county and farmer Kenneth Reist. Reist has been leasing county land near the PennDOT driver center off East Cumberland Street. The county recently sold about 3 acres of the tract, meaning that Reist will now lease the remaining 12.3 acres at $1,200 per year.
Representatives of the Sustainable Energy Fund, administrators of the county’s Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program gave the commissioners their annual update.
C-PACE helps commercial property owners get low-cost financing for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation projects, by placing a special voluntary assessment on a property to repay the costs of the new construction and retro-fit projects.
SEF program director Kelly Sanders told the commissioners that a July 2022 broadening of the program now allows financing for “resiliency measures” such as wind resistant windows and flood protection for buildings. Multi-family buildings with at least five units will now be eligible for C-PACE participation.
The commissioners approved an amendment to the county’s C-PACE agreement to take advantage of the broadened program. 21 Pennsylvania counties participate in C-PACE.
The commissioners concluded Thursday’s activity by holding the annual meeting of the county’s retirement board.
Acting on the recommendations of county controller and board secretary Robert Mettley, the commissioners approved 2023 interest and contribution rates, death benefits paid to employees who died in 2022, refunds paid to employees in 2022, and pensions for 2022 retirees.
NOTE: This post was updated on Dec. 24 to reflect Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz’s “no” vote on a motion to eliminate two positions at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility.
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