Pennsylvania to see sharp drop in impact fee collections this year

By Paul J. Gough  – Reporter, Pittsburgh Business Times   Jan 9, 2020, 2:08pm EST

 

It was a tough 2018 in the natural gas industry, so it follows that it'll be a tough 2020 for impact fee collections.

The Independent Fiscal Office released its estimate of collections on Thursday, which it said will be $198.2 million, down $53.6 million from the record $251.8 million in 2018 based on production from 2017. That will be its lowest total amount since 2016's $173.2 million at the tail-end of the last slump in the Appalachian natural gas industry.

The decline is due to lower fees paid by natural gas producers on production, which kicked in when the price of natural gas on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) fell under $3 per thousand BTUs. That spelled a $5,000 drop per horizontal well with the average price $2.63 per thousand BTU, and cut into the impact fee by $49.9 million, the Independent Fiscal Office said.

New wells, which are more productive and more lucrative for the impact fee, brought $3.8 million more this year compared to last year, but the amount of money that was brought in by the resolution of disputes was cut by $7.5 million.

 

BY BROOKE WILLIAMS, STAFF WRITER

PUBLISHED: JANUARY 1, 2020 SCRANTON TIMES TRIBUNE

The Wyoming County commissioners passed a budget for 2020 totaling $15.45 million with no tax increase, but two incoming commissioners plan to re-open it next week.

Commissioners-elect Rick Wilbur and Ernie King will be sworn in Monday. Incoming commissioners have the ability to reopen the 2020 budget.

In a letter provided to the Wyoming County Examiner, a Times-Shamrock Communications newspaper, Wilbur wrote that a “rosy picture” has been painted of the county’s financial situation but that picture is not necessarily true.

About $960,000 of state Act 13 shale/gas funding was used to balance the 2020 budget, and no provision was included to fund almost $1 million for the county pension plan. That avoided a tax increase in 2020, he wrote.

With the long-term future of Act 13 funding uncertain, Wilbur recommended ways to “bring finances in line and put Act 13 funds to better use.”  He suggests a wage freeze, an immediate freeze on hiring new personnel, a policy requiring a thorough review before replacing county employees and looking into different health care plans.

Wilbur said King, who was not at the meeting, reviewed and approved the letter.  Wilbur also plans to forgo a raise and will ask department heads to voluntarily do the same.

*Note:  There will be no wage freeze for employees and all employees will receive their promised raises.  

The following article appeared in the Rocket Courier after an interview with Commissioner Tom Henry about the budget that would be passed before the end of the year.  Praise is given for passing a budget that includes no tax increase. After reviewing the budget, Ernie King and I are not in agreement with the budget that includes no cuts at all, the need to transfer almost a million dollars from Marcellus gas funds and no funding for the county pension plan for the fifth year in a row. The reason for no tax increase is the use of gas funds and not funding the pension plan and was not the result of fiscal responsibility.

After being questioned numerous times by taxpayers about how the county's financial situation improved dramatically after they read this article, I was compelled to respond.  During the year long campaign, I continually talked about our precarious financial situation and it hasn't miraculously improved since then.  Following the Rocket article is my response to let taxpayers know exactly what is going on. My response was approved by Ernie King and we will be working together to solve our financial crisis.

If you have comments or concerns about our       budget problem, let me know.  To email me, click       the contact button on top of the page ask any   question you want or voice your concerns. 

I'll get back to you promptly...normally within 24 hours.  

 

No Tax Hike in Wyoming County’s 2020 Budget

December 11, 2019

—BY WARREN HOWELER—

Wyoming County lawmakers have unveiled the county’s proposed 2020 budget, which includes no tax increase for local residents.

The commissioners are set to formally adopt next year’s spending plan at their Dec. 26 meeting.

The county’s millage rate will remain at 25.848 mils.

The proposed 2020 county budget, which is balanced, is valued at a total of $15,450,751.47.

Revenues are projected to increase by $1,273,226.47 over this year’s budget.

On the expense side, that number is budgeted to increase by $1,273,227.99 over the county’s 2019 spending plan.

While the county is not planning to increase its millage rate next year, it is budgeting to receive an additional $248,000 in property tax revenue in 2020.

Commissioner Chairman Tom Henry said the increase is the result of three major commercial developments that are nearing completion within the county.

Also in the proposed 2020 budget, the county decreased the line item for boarding inmates from the Wyoming County Correctional Facility at other prisons.

This year, the county had budgeted $150,000 for that expense. In 2020, that line item will be decreased to $60,000.

Henry attributed the decrease in that line item to the fact that the county is boarding out less of its inmates.

In 2018, the county spent $100,000 on boarding fees. This year, that amount is approximately $59,000, he said.

The county is also planning to lease two new vehicles for use by the adult and juvenile probation departments for 2020 through Enterprise, according to Henry.

The county included a total of $36,000 in vehicle leases for both the adult and juvenile probation departments—$18,000 for each department—within the 2020 proposed budget.

Henry added that the new board of commissioners will be reviewing the county’s fleet of vehicles after the first of the year.

He praised his fellow commissioners and county officials for “the collaborative effort” in creating a budget that contains no tax increase.

The proposed 2020 Wyoming County Budget is currently on display in the commissioners’ office in the courthouse.

 

My Response to the misleading Rocket Courier article

As your newly elected Wyoming County Commissioners, Ernie King and Rick Wilbur will be sworn in on January 6th and we will begin our duties working for county residents. 

A balanced 2020 budget that does not include a tax increase was passed by the current commissioners before we took office.  On the surface, this sounds great and something must have been done right since taxes were raised the previous two years and weren’t for 2020.  There have even been articles reporting a balanced budget without a tax increase that paints a rosy picture of the county’s financial situation.  Unfortunately, it isn’t rosy at all. 

We both feel the need to set the record straight and make Wyoming County residents aware what’s included in the current budget that was just passed.  We will not start serving with the misconception that county finances have miraculously improved after all the rhetoric about problems during the last year of campaigning.

Approximately $960,000 from Act 13 Marcellus gas funds were used to balance the 2020 budget and once again, there is no provision for funding almost $1 million for the county pension plan.  The only reason taxes were not increased this year is because we used Act 13 Marcellus gas funds and didn’t fund the pension plan.

Most people in the know agree that the gas severance tax will eventually be enacted when the political climate changes.  When it is, Act 13 fees will disappear or be severely reduced as gas tax revenues go to Harrisburg to be distributed across the state with less for the areas impacted by the gas industry.  When that day comes, how will we fill that huge void?  We have only two possibilities:  raise taxes or decrease spending.

Ernie and I met with the current commissioners after reviewing the proposed budget and recommended several things to begin bringing our finances in line and put Act 13 funds to better use.  We asked for an immediate freeze on hiring of new personnel and a change in policy to require a thorough review before replacing anyone who leaves the county’s employ.  Through attrition, we feel that we must reduce personnel to stop this spending spiral by 15% to 20% total employees in the next 4 to 5 years.  Payroll is about 50% of our total budget and we must bring that down.  Bradford County did the exact same thing and reduced from approximately 900 employees to 700 over 5 years.  They are still operating efficiently, and we can too.

We also discussed the high cost of health insurance that takes up about 20% of our total budget and proposed looking into different plans that will provide similar coverage at a lower cost. In discussions with several local municipalities and businesses, we were told they shop around regularly and save money without reducing coverage to their employees.  This is high on our priority list and will be looked at immediately after we take office on January 6.

Finally, we asked for a one-year freeze on wage increases for all non-union personnel who aren’t covered by collective bargaining agreements. This was turned down and not included in the budget.  Savings would have been approximately $80,000 which is not near enough to do what we need, but it is a start.  On January 6, 2020 we will reopen the budget as authorized by law and enact the wage freeze to begin working on our goal of financial stability.   We realize that this will not be popular among some employees, but we are at the point that we must make hard decisions today or be forced to make drastic ones down the road. 

We have a long way to go and it’s not something that can be accomplished overnight.   Our promise is that we will make the hard decisions, be fair to our employees and taxpayers, bring transparency to county government and work diligently to put Wyoming County back on firm financial footing. 

Thank You Wyoming County For Your Support!  I Promise To Do Everything I Can To Fulfill My Campaign Promises and Make Wyoming County a Better Place For All of Us!  I'm Looking Forward to January And Taking My Spot on Your Board of Commissioners....Rick Wilbur

 

What are your thoughts on a new prison?  Please go to my "contact" page and let me know.  Thanks!

 

DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN NOW APPLY FOR AN ABSENTEE BALLOT AT www.pavotes.com?

Just click on "Voting Information" on my website, follow instructions to pick your state and then click on the pavotes.com logo.  Once the page opens, arrow down until you come to the section on applying online for an absentee ballot.  You can fill out online and your ballot will be mailed to you.  You still will need to mail in your completed ballot but the online application saves you one step of either going to the courthouse or mailing your application in.

You can also register to vote or change parties on the same pavotes site.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy

schedule to visit my website!

Early last winter, I made the decision to run for Wyoming County Commissioner because of my deep concern with rising taxes and our county’s financial position.  Since the beginning of my campaign, I have attended many local events, campaign meet and greets, the debate and talked to many of you in your homes or out in public.

There are many issues I heard about in my travels, but one recurring issue is our taxes rising with little to show for it.  I firmly believe as many taxpayers do too that our spending is out of control.  Of course costs are rising, but we need to look closely at eliminating any wasteful spending and keeping our taxes in check.

We need leadership that is knowledgeable and has financial experience to oversee the spending of your taxpayer dollars and stop the need for increasing taxes every year.  As an outsider, I’ve studied a lot of the financial information I’ve been provided and see that we definitely have areas where we can save money.  With my 40 years experience as an accountant and almost 20 years as a township supervisor, I feel that I have the experience and background that Wyoming County needs to straighten out our financial situation.

As an outsider I won't know just how bad our financial situation is until after election and how much it will take to straighten out.  But if elected, I will promise to roll up my sleeves, work hard and use every bit of my experience and knowledge to do right for the taxpayers of this county.  I will look at every department and work with department heads to find ways to save money to eliminate the need to raise your taxes. 

If you feel that our spending is out of control and we must do everything we can to stop raising your taxes, please vote for me on November 5th as your next Wyoming County Commissioner…Thank you!

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