by Jonathan Weaver
The new trio of Armstrong County Commissioners announced they were not able to decrease the $21.3 million County budget passed in December as anticipated.
Commissioner Chair Pat Fabian made the announcement one day before commissioners would have been required to start advertising the revised budget. State law requires any reopened county or municipal budget to be passed by February 15.
“The 2016 budget as adopted by the previous (Board of Commissioners) will remain the same,” Fabian said.
Commissioners Jason Renshaw and George Skamai added that a nearly-$400,000 deduction from the Armstrong County Jail budget made a big impact.
“We looked at everything in the budget, and being the situation we were in with the jail and some more things that have come up since that time, we’re kind-of balancing out the equation right now,” Renshaw said. “But, there are some long-term solutions we are looking at. Over the course of the next year or so, you’ll see those things coming into play.”
While the budget still has money set aside for possible at-will employee wage increases, that $100,000 will sit untouched for now.
“It’s in the budget, but we chose not to use it,” Renshaw said. “But, we’re going quarter-by-quarter.
There are a lot of shortfalls so we don’t have the ability to give raises.”
Commissioners also unanimously agreed to restructure the management agreement with Affinity Health Services – which managed the health center since November 2013 – to save money.
Fabian said restructuring the agreement so Affinity only becomes consultants will save the county about $200,000.
Renshaw and the other commissioners will also meet with Pictometry International representatives from Rochester, New York about an upcoming high-tech imaging software contract.
The contract is estimated to cost taxpayers about $36,000 per year, but Renshaw wanted to see some financial justification for the six year cost before making the first payment March 1.
“It’s a good program, I understand what it’s for and I see both sides of it as well. But, is it a good fit right now for our county?,” Renshaw said. “We have a few more weeks to get all the information and make an educated decision on that.”
Fabian later added that meetings with individual departments helped evaluate other potential cost-savings – including in fleet management, a printer consolidation internally and a hiring and capital purchases freeze in at least three departments.
“You got to look at what your revenue is and you got to look at what your operating cost is, and if your operating costs are above what you’re anticipating bringing in, decisions like pay increases, Pictometry, any other capital purchases, those are easy decisions.
“If you don’t have it, you don’t spend it. If we can cut things out that helps the taxpayers but doesn’t hurt service, then that’s the way we’re going to conduct business.”
Executive Director of Administration Dan Lucovich reassured taxpayers that the commissioners have the best interest of local residents.