For the ninth consecutive year, the Centre County budget includes no real estate tax increase.
The Board of Commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to adopt the proposed tentative budget of $83 million and authorize a 20-day public comment period. A vote on the final budget is scheduled for Dec. 27.
The county's combined general and debt millage rate will remain unchanged at 7.4 mills.
Assessed property values will grow by 1.59 percent, the third consecutive year of growth and the highest percentage increase since 2009, according to Tom Martin, county director of financial management.
"That’s what makes Centre County a vibrant community, because we do see that growth when a lot of other areas are going the other way, but it also allows us to go eight, nine years, hopefully more, without a tax increase, because that’s really the driver," Commissioner Steve Dershem said. "Your expenses increase yearly and that’s (assessed values) what allows us to live within our means, if you will, but it does require a lot of diligence."
Overall the plan includes a $78.3 million operating budget and a $3.2 million capital budget.
In the general and special funds categories, the largest part of the budget, revenues total $68.99 million, a 6.7 percent increase over 2018, and expenditures are 69.55 million.
"The increase in projected revenues exceeds the increase in projected expenses by .5 percent as compared to the 2018 budget," Martin said.
Federal and state grants make up 41 percent of all revenues ($32.2 million), real estate taxes are 35 percent ($27.9 million), departmental earnings are 18 percent ($13.7 million) and internal charges for services are 6 percent ($4.45 million)
Martin also noted that interest earnings will increase substantially, from $383,056 in 2018 to $628,319 for 2019.
Human services comprises the largest portion of expenditures at $28.3 million, with $13.86 million for corrections, $11.36 million for administration, $10.57 million for judicial, $5 million for protection and inspection, $4.7 million for debt service, $3.2 million for capital projects, $2.7 million for conservation and development and $3.35 million for other allocations.
The budget includes an $850,000 Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency grant to complete the county 911 interconnectivity project, as well as $1.1 million in federal Community Development Block Grants, up from $630,000 in 2018.
Among other expenditures, the budget also continues support for the county drug court and the Centre County HOPE Initiative.
A 2 percent salary increase for employees is included and all compensation expenditures -- salary, benefits and taxes -- increase 5.4 percent.
The $3.2 million in capital funds expenditures include procurement of new voting machines, for which the county is expected to foot about $800,000, courthouse renovations, the ongoing Guaranteed Energy Savings Program project, and a new equipment building at the Public Safety Training Center.
Commissioners applauded staff for their work, and Chairman Michael Pipe said the lack of a tax increase once again is a "credit to the diligence and hard work of county staff."