LEWISTOWN - For the first time in six years, the Mifflin County Commissioners have passed a tentative budget for 2013 that calls for a tax increase.
On Thursday, the commissioners voted to put the 2013 spending plan, which totals $23,074,343, with a 1.63 mill tax increase, on public display for 21 days with final adoption scheduled for Dec. 27.
"The budget going on display does not necessarily represent the feelings of all board members," Commissioner Mark Sunderland, said discussing the vote. "I voted yes to put it on display."
In a written fact sheet handed out by Commissioner Kevin Kodish, the first-year commissioner noted, "The current millage rate has been in effect for six consecutive budget years. The last increase was just 0.10 mills in 2007. For a property owner with an assessed value of $50,000, this (increase) would amount to an increase of $81.50 per year, or $6.80 a month.
"We are facing uncertain future funding on both state and federal levels," Kodish continued. "Federal and state governments have sought to balance their budgets in part by cutting support to counties. With inflation, the buying power of the same tax dollars declines.
"We do not have any appreciable capital reserve fund in Mifflin County and we have bond payments that will continue to increase each year. We currently have to take out a large Tax Revenue Anticipation Note each year. This costs the county over $20,000 in interest. We hope to be able to reduce the amount of the T.R.A.N. significantly - if not eliminate it altogether - in the future."
Kodish said the board has trimmed expenses in several areas this year and will continue to seek the most efficient operation for the county.
"With this year's increase," Kodish said, "our goal is to have no further increases for at least the next two budget years. Property owners are already burdened. We are excited about the future of Mifflin County and we will continue to work hard on behalf of all citizens."
In other business Thursday, the board voted unanimously to pledge $5,000 toward a Regional Gas Utilization Initiative being sought by two other counties, along with the SEDA-Council of Governments and the Mifflin County Industrial Development Corporation.
MCIDC President Rob Postal officially made the request Thursday, stating the project, if approved by the federal government, would entail a study to allow a composium of counties, Mifflin, Clinton and Centre, along with the other entities, to positively exploit the availability of affordable natural gas and encourage the use of that gas in the region, particularly for industrial purposes.
Postal said Clinton and Centre counties have already pledged $20,000 each as a match for the project. He added that he will contact other entities for support to go along with the county's pledge and a pledge of $5,000 from MCIDC to cover the county's $20,000 share.
"The purpose of this (study) is to investigate how to utilize gas already coming through the pipelines," Postal reiterated. "Our industrial areas are already served, but they're pretty close to capacity."
Postal said the $5,000 approved Thursday is only a pledge at this time.
"The program may or may not be successful," he said. "If it's not, the pledge will be voided. But we think it's important and ask you to consider this."
Postal said the initiative is another tool to be used in economic development efforts for the region.
"Companies need to know if the infrastructure is there," he said. "This is to get ahead of the curve if you will. Other regions are looking into this."
Kodish then made a motion to accept the request for the pledge
"I gladly second the motion," Commissioner Otis Riden said. "This is a potential economic driver for the county."
"This is a good project. SEDA-COG has always been a front-runner with bringing jobs to this area," he said. "This is good for the area."
In other business Thursday, the commissioners adopted a proclamation designating December as "United Way" month in the county.
In part, the proclamation read that county government employees are always at the forefront in supporting the efforts of the United Way of Mifflin-Juniata, which is currently at roughly 45 percent of its 2013 goal of $600,000. The proclamation also asks residents of the county to support the United Way campaign and the agencies it funds.
On hand to accept the proclamation was Phyllis Mitchell, vice-president of community relations for Lewistown Hospital.
"On behalf of the United Way, I would like to thank the commissioners and county government for their continued support," she said. "We appreciate your support over the years."
In other business, the commissioners:
Approved purchase of service agreements for use, if needed, by Children & Youth with Soulberry Farm Inc., Huntingdon; KidsPeace Corporation, Schnecksville; and Children's Home of York.
Approved a request from Miffco Tax Services for exoneration of the county portion of the per capita taxes for the years 1983-2011 totaling $1,231.50.
Approved the following applications for 2012 Liquid Fuels funding: $4,435.45 from Bratton Township; and $11,409.09 from Armagh Township.
Reappointed Mark Ellinger, of Lewistown, to another three-year term on the Agriculture Land Preservation Board.
Reappointed James Hostetter, of McVeytown, to another four-year term on the Mifflin County Conservation District Board of Directors (farmer member).
Reappointed Mark Sunderland, of Milroy, to another one-year term on the Mifflin County Conservation District Board of Directors (commissioner member).
Approved an agreement for the county to provide planning services to Lewistown Borough for 2013.
Approved the acceptance of a Mifflin County Victims of Juvenile Offenders grant in the amount of $4,766.
Accepted a $5,000 grant for upgrades to the county's Megan's Law registration site.
Approved the application for a Drug Court Patrol Grant in the amount of $11,272.
Approved the transfer of Kristen Price from the planning office to special projects coordinator in the human services office effective Dec. 10.
Approved the transfer of Kim Napier from the treasurer's office to office manager in the planning office effective Dec. 17.