HONESDALE—The Wayne County Board of Commissioners have adopted their tentative General and Debt Service Budget for 2018.
The draft budget is available for public inspection in the Commissioners office during normal business hours and on the county website: www.waynecountypa.gov.
The commissioners intend to formally adopt the budget at their business meeting on December 21.
The balanced budget totals over $31 million and contains a proposed increase of .28 mills, bringing the total millage rate to 3.99.
One mill represents $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value, meaning that at the proposed 2018 rate, property worth $100,000 will need to pay $399 in tax.
According to a press release, this is the first tax increase the county has seen since 2013.
It further states since that time, county income from assessed property values has only risen by $358,591, falling short of a rise in county operational expenditures of over $2 million.
Much of the expenditure increases fell in various offices of the Human Services Department, totaling over $700,000 since 2013.
Board Chairman Brian Smith stated that the repercussions from the legislative measures undertaken as a result of the Jerry Sandusky trials have put an increased work load on county human services departments, necessitating the increase in expenditures.
Commissioner Wendell Kay noted that, in addition to increases in human services expenses over time, the county received a 10 percent reduction in state funding for those departments over four years ago.
“We are still operating under that deficit from four to five years ago, which put us behind the eight ball …,” said Kay.
Other expenditure increases Smith mentioned result from efforts undertaken to combat the opioid epidemic.
According to the press release, there has been a net expenditure increase of $600,000 in the Wayne County Correctional Facility since 2013, “... due to criminal justice costs and the termination of a prisoner housing contract from the Department of Corrections.”
In addition to this, Smith stated Pike County opted to no longer house their prisoners in the Wayne County Correctional Facility, eliminating $500,000 in revenue for Wayne County.
Attesting to the months-long process of establishing the budget in as fair and balanced a way as possible, Commissioner Joseph Adams stated, “I wanna applaud John, Vicky, and all the departments on doing a phenomenal due-diligence job of making it as frugal as we possibly can.
“It's a difficult thing to raise taxes at any time, but in this case after five years of no tax increases and mandated expenses going higher, it's the right thing to do from a balance for the county tax payer for the county operation as well as the community and the services we're required to provide for them.”
Overall, Commissioner Smith stated, “I think it's a responsible budget, I think it's gonna be a budget that's … gonna provide the services that we've been providing...”
Sharing this sentiment, Kay added, “I think we've really tried to do two things here, which is to delay the onset of a tax increase for as long as possible, and secondly, to make that tax increase as small as we can make it and still get the job done.”
—Information from a release was used in this story.