It’s The Money

While the Warren County Commissioners may not agree on everything, there is at least one area of consensus: fiscal issues will continue to dominate at the county level in 2013.

“I think the big thing is we will continue to play the waiting game on budget issues,” Commissioner John Eggleston said on Wednesday. “We are in partnership with the state and federal government.”

Chairman Stephen Vanco agreed. “The biggest issue that we’ll have is going to be budgetary constraints, as it has been. We’ll see what happens as far as state and federal funds,” he said.

As Eggleston and Vanco both pointed out, significant amounts of funding for county-level programs come from the state and federal government, and that funding has been dwindling in recent years.

“In my first term, and certainly in my second, when the economy started to collapse,” Eggleston said, “funding for many programs evaporated or was curtailed. It’s a constant balance of wants and resources what we can afford as opposed to what we would like. We, as a county government, have to have a balanced budget. We can’t print money.”

Vanco said he doesn’t see any major projects on the immediate horizon, but Eggleston noted talks are ongoing about a county-wide property tax reassessment, though no timetable is in place.

“As far as projects in the county, ” Vanco said, “I don’t foresee anything unless we do some re-organization to improve the efficiency of things, which is ongoing.”

“Reassessment will continue to be one of the big ticket items we’ve been dealing with,” Eggleston said, “trying to make the system equitable and fair. Whether we can do a reassessment? The state has consolidated some of the rules on it. How do we fund it? Whether it will be this year, I don’t know, but it’s something we do talk about.”

Vanco said he’s keeping an eye on other county developments as well, citing possible revenues from Act 13 funds as a result of shale gas developments in the county. Vanco noted a number of permits for drilling have been issued in the past year.

“It’ll be interesting to see what develops as far as what we don’t control,” he said.

Vanco also noted the commissioners are working to help partner organizations achieve their goals.

“We try to help the agencies we work with maintain or develop their future plans,” he said.

The two agreed overall goals remained static.

“We’re trying to improve the county through job creation or retention, or just recreation opportunities, to improve the lives of the people here a little, but I think the big issues will be fiscal,” Vanco concluded. “I think these are probably things that are looked at every year and maybe just the points of interest change.”

“The big gorilla in the room, so to speak, is the effect of the state and federal budget on us,” Eggleston said. “The governor will issue a new budget in March that has to be passed in June, if memory serves me correctly. We’ve passed a budget and we’ll have to see how that effects it. We continue to try to run the county as efficiently as possible. We continue the day-to-day stuff.”

Commissioner John Bortz was unavailable for comment.