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County Progress Report
The county successfully negotiated the start of employee health insurance contributions starting in 2007. It was important to start to contribute 10% in 2006 to help reverse the ever-increasing rise in health care cost; I did voluntarily, as did several others.
The county has taken steps to join the Northern County Health Insurance Purchasing Cooperative with the primary goals to again, cut the cost of health insurance. This co-op transfers the control of the insurance portion to member counties. The benefits are the same and present no change to the employee. It allows for stability in insurance rates and typically projects a savings of 10% below industry pricing. The cooperative allows counties to maintain their own benefit structure and provides greater price predictability and stability over time.
Our county is one of six in the state of Pennsylvania that successfully submitted applications for our one million dollars in Growing Greener II funding. These funds were distributed to 29 different watershed recreation or infrastructure projects throughout the county.
The June flood as well as recent flash flooding continues to highlight the need to implement a hazard mitigation plan, and this continues to be a top priority. Steps have been taken to use the services of a disaster recover specialist to place Susquehanna County in a better position for funding. There will be upcoming meetings to help all concerned citizens, elected officials, and anyone interested in taking part.
Our retirement plan continues to do well with the management consultants from Citigroup. The advisors reported on October 25 that the portfolio is on track and recently topped $10 million in total assets.
The 2007 budget will be on the table soon with a fiscally conservative approach taken. There were many unexpected events in ’06; despite this, we were able to balance the budget with no increase in taxes expected.
Susquehanna County Board of Commissioners
It’s All Positive
My opinion on the farmers’ losing money daily for their milk is positive.
Farmers are versatile, resilient, and very clever. The price of corn is at an all-time high. That means the price they pay for dairy feed is also sky high.
Ethanol production is to blame for both high prices. The corn farmers are happy, the dairy farmers still sad.
Ethanol production in our nation is a plus positive. It gives us, as a nation a solution to high oil prices and gas prices, so everyone wins.
As the dairy farmers see that they can make more money selling corn, soybeans and the cows, they will be happy and have a future in a good life for all of us.
As for milk or the lack of it, the remaining dairy farmers will eventually become the “OPEC” of pure moo and survive happily ever after.
Peter A. Seman
A Christmas “Gift”?
P. Jay’s column in the November 29 County Transcript was very upbeat about the “good news” from the commissioners regarding taxes for next year. It appears that real estate taxes will not increase, and that the occupation tax may be abolished. He even refers to these actions as a Christmas present. I think P. Jay comes close to insulting the county taxpayers’ intelligence. Next year is an election year for the commissioners, and one doesn’t need to be cynical to make a connection between that fact and the commissioners’ likely action. Show me a politician who doesn’t want to hold down or eliminate taxes in an election year.
Look beyond the short-term results of the “good news.” If the occupation tax is abolished, the county loses the (admittedly small) revenue generated by that tax and at the same time places 100% of the county tax burden squarely on the shoulders of property owners. What do you think will happen when the 2008 budget is planned, after the election is over? Another worrisome possibility for landowners is the specter of reassessment, a subject broached at a commissioners meeting by Fred Baker II.
I believe the math adds up to “bad news” for county landowners: a 3.1 percent pay raise for the commissioners and the department heads (higher spending), plus holding steady on property tax rates and eliminating occupation tax (reduced revenue), plus the possibility of reassessment in the near future. I believe that equals a Christmas present that should be returned.
Who will the landowners of the county have to thank for this bleak possibility? As P. Jay points out, it is thanks to Jim Jennings of Brooklyn Twp. Mr. Jennings has been grinding on the political ax of the occupation tax for quite a while, and his efforts have been featured in P. Jay’s column over the past couple of years. In addition to plugging his crusade at public commissioners’ meetings. I learned that Mr. Jennings was actually granted a private, closed-door meeting with the commissioners and chief assessor Ellen O’Malley earlier this year. An elected tax collector who asked to sit in on this meeting was turned down cold. Don’t we all wish we had that kind of private access to county officials, to influence county policy on our personal pet projects?
Mr. Jennings also seems to have a particular grudge against the elected tax collectors. He has in the past expressed the belief that tax collectors were the only ones to benefit from the occupation tax. Tax collectors have an important job to do, a job we take seriously. It is not a job anyone would do for free. The county pays its tax collectors a flat fee for each notice mailed, and sets the fee amounts before the tax collector election cycle. Our pay rate is fixed for the next three years. Eliminating the occupation tax would result in a pay cut approaching 40 to 50 percent. The kicker is that the workload will not decrease, as collectors in municipalities with personal taxes will still have to mail the same number of notices. The county will only pay the collectors for the property tax notices.
But vastly overshadowing the potential losses for tax collectors is the potential losses to the property owners who will bear the total county tax burden if this “Christmas gift” is opened. I urge all landowners to contact the commissioners and ask them to put aside election year showboating and backroom dealing. Ask them to stand up to their fiscal responsibility, and trust the voters to make their decision based on more than superficial gestures.
Timothy C. Button
Harford Township Tax Collector
TO THE EDITOR POLICY
Thank you, Susquehanna County Transcript
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