For the seventh straight year, Lycoming County residents will see no increase in their county real estate taxes.
The county commissioners Thursday approved their 2012 operating budget, which sets the county real estate tax rate at 4.75 mills.
One mill equals $1 in real estate taxes for every $1,000 in assessed property value. A property valued at $100,000 would be billed $475 under the county's real estate tax rate.
The $94.3 million in expenses budgeted also is the third straight budget presented by the commissioners that reduces spending from the previous year.
It shows a $2.4 million decrease in spending compared to the 2011 budget.
Several minor changes were made to the budget since it went on public display in mid-November, according to Beth A. Johnston, acting director of county fiscal services.
Those changes resulted in a net increase of $57,000 in spending - not enough to require the commissioners to raise taxes, Johnston said.
The budget anticipates $79.3 million in revenue, of which $25.8 million is expected in county real estate taxes.
Revenue is expected to be slightly less than last year by about $261,000, Johnston said.
The decrease is the result of a drop in about $3.3 million in state and federal funding, Johnston said. However, the lion's share of the decrease will be offset by increases in other types of revenue, such as moneys raised from selling recycled materials and surplus equipment.
Johnston said the gap between revenue and expenses will be bridged with cash reserves. Johnston said the reserves are a result of budget surpluses carried over from previous budget years.
The county has carried over a surplus four times since 2006, which is due to less money being spent than was budgeted during those years, she said.
The county's big ticket items for 2012 are courts, with expenses set at $9 million; prison services, which includes the prison and pre-release center, about $6.9 million; the Department of Planning and Community Development, $5.7 million; Department of Public Safety and other safety services, $2.9 million; and Information Services, $1.9 million.
The $7.8 million in anticipated expenses by county Children and Youth Services will be covered by state and federal funding that passes through the county to the agency.
The commissioners approved a five-year capital spending plan that calls for more than $45 million in capital projects over the life of the plan, including $15.2 million in 2012.
The capital plan includes the cost of constructing a leachate storage tank at the county landfill in Brady Township.
The project is expected to cost $3.9 million for the tank and $1.4 million for a force main for the first year of the two-year project.
Johnston said projects identified in the capital budget will move forward only when the money actually becomes available to pay for them.
In other business, the commissioners approved an application to the state Department of Community and Economic Development for $85,000.
The money will be used to complete analysis of environmental conditions on property owned by Brodart in the city, according to William Kelly, deputy director of the county planning department.
The city eventually will take over ownership of the property while environmental issues are being remediated on it. Market rate housing and two Habitat for Humanity homes are slated to be built on the property, which totals about 3.5 acres, Kelly said.
The commissioners were presented with a check for almost $294,000 from JoAnn Ranck and Mark C. Sitler, of the Hartman Agency Inc., which handled the county's workers compensation coverage.
According to Sitler, the money is a refund due to the county because of the low number of compensation claims submitted during the 2010 coverage year.
The county subscribes to a "risk transfer" policy that adjusts premiums after the policy expires based on the cost of claims.
If claims are low, a refund is given, Sitler said. By the same token, if they are high, the policy holder - in this case, the county - could have to pay an additional premium, he said.
For the past 10 years, Lycoming County has received a refund, he said. The refund over the past seven years alone has totaled more than $2 million.
A risk transfer policy encourages the policy holder to focus on injury prevention and safety, which is something the county has become very adept at doing, Sitler said.