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Posted on: November 29, 2019

Human Services Costs Help Drive Up Budget, 2020 Taxes

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HONESDALE -- The Wayne County Commissioners presented the proposed 2020 General Fund and Debt Service Budget at their meeting Thursday morning, which calls for a one-mill tax increase in the new year.

For the past two years, the Commissioners have been using money from the county's unrestricted Fund Balance, a sort of savings account for unexpected expenditures, to avoid tax increases, but a series of factors and a growing gap between Commonwealth funding and actual costs for providing mandated services mean a jump from 3.99 to 4.99 mills, or an additional $100 in taxes for every $100,000 of assessed value.

Commissioner Joe Adams explained that continuing to use the Fund Balance could jeopardize the county's credit rating, making it more expensive to borrow money in the future not just for the County, but also Wayne Memorial Hospital, which piggybacks on the county bond rating for it own financing needs.

Chairman Brian Smith said the increase in costs are not related to debt service, noting that with the help of Adams' expertise the current building projects were financed without any increase in debt payments. The transaction allowed the county to tackle all of the outstanding physical plant projects by extending the county's debt rather than increasing current payments. The increase in spending, he said, is driven by the continuing opioid epidemic, health care costs and computer needs.

Commissioner Wendell Kay called it a "responsible budget, considering the things that are outside our control." Kay said another significant factor driving up costs has been the 10 percent cut to Human Services in 2012 that has never been restore. "I always say we will do more with less, but the time will come when the county can no longer do that and will have to scale back services, where possible.

For a full report and budget summary, visit the County Commissioners' Page

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