Thursday, October 04, 2018

McClure Proposes 2019 Spending Plan With No Tax Hike

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure has proposed an ambitious $455 million spending plan for next year that includes no tax hike. If approved, the tax rate will stay at 11.8 mills.

It is fitting that he revealed his proposed budget at the County's Centralized Human Services Building. That building is currently being leased at a cost of $1.05 million per year. It is also a "triple net" lease, meaning the County must pay taxes, maintenance costs and insurance. The real estate tax bill alone is $190,000 per year.

The County has an option to purchase that building next year at a cost of $14,468,731. McClure discussed this matter with County Council at their September 6 meeting, and the consensus was that he exercise this option.

Though the County has sufficient funds on hand to complete the purchase, McClure intends to borrow the money. The reason for this is that the state currently reimburses the county for 80% of the cost of the lease, and will continue to do so if the County borrows money to complete the purchase. There will be no reimbursement if the County has no debt. "This essentially leverages the funding from the Commonwealth," he explained.

McClure delivered budget address to staff and reporters
That would explain a $14.4 million bond. But McClure intends to borrow $26 million.

Why? He intends to build an $11 million forensic center. "Don't think of this as a morgue," he warned County Council in August. Instead, he wants a "true forensic center" where autopsies and toxicology tests are performed to help solve murder crimes. He is hoping police will be able to use it to download cellphones and as a place where St.Luke's and DeSales can train future physicians and physician assistants.

The remaining money from the bond issue will be slotted to pay for the controversial $38.5 million P3 project under which 33 county bridges are being outright replaced or repaired. McClure is committed to seeing that project continue, despite reservations. According to the Executive, it was never assigned a "designated source of funds. The previous administration also failed to provide funding in 2018 for easements, utility relocations and the repayment of conservation funds to the Commonwealth." McClure was forced to use real estate taxes.

McClure credited Budget Administrator Doran Hamann
for his tireless efforts in preparing the budget.  
There will be no county contribution earmarked for Gracedale, the county's nursing home. In fact, McClure intends to replace Premier, the County's outside administrator with in-house staff who are certified. This will save the County $450,000 per year.

McClure has maintained his commitment to open space, stating he will devote $3 million to a program that was “systematically stripped away” in previous budgets.McClure stated that fully funding open space is the "one thing that Northampton County can do to prevent the expansion of truck traffic and warehouse proliferation throughout Northampton County."

The budget includes a 2% COLA and step increases for employees between one and four years of seniority. He will also eliminate gap insurance and co-pay for employees. He expects this to increase the bottom line of every worker.

Northampton County and Bethlehem are in the process of consolidating 911 service. He decided to budget for a "worst case scenario," and believes the actual numbers will be lower.

It is a true balanced budget. He has no intention of dipping into cash reserves.

The lion's share of McClure's budget (51.2%) will fund Human Services, which serves 80,000 people.

In addition to releasing the budget book online, McClure has also put the “blue book” online. Traditionally, the blue book has only been available to Council. You can also see his budget presentation on Facebook.

(This story originally published at 2:15 pm, and has been updated.)

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

So what does that mean for long time employees that have stuck in there through the BS. Reads like they don't get anything and that they will make less again that shorter term employees (1-4 years)and that once again longer term employees get screwed. So it doesn't pay to stay longer.

If I'm reading your article wrong, please correct me.

Anonymous said...

I thought this administration would be different!! But once again the loyal employee with long term/25 years of dedicated service to the county and public gets screwed again. Be it noted that last year employees with 4 or more years of service only received a step increase not both a step and COLA. So where is the seniority respect here, $50 a month for 25 years of service, please, seriously!!!!!’

Bernie O'Hare said...

Long-term employees are not getting a step increase. Everyone is getting a 2% COLA. McClure also proposes to eliminate co-pays and gap insurance. What this means is you will have more money in your pocket, as I am told you will discover when you go to open enrollment.

The real problem with employees is salary compression, and McClure told me he intends to address it soon.

Anonymous said...

So long-term employees who have been screwed for years while new employees just walking in have in the past made basically the same hourly, now are going to get ahead of the long-term. Thus the County is paying employees that have much less experience and put in much less time close to or even more than employees that have been loyal and put in numerous years. Also more than their supervisors. The long-term employees deserve two steps!!!!!!

Mass exodus again! No reason to stay!

As far as the elimination of co-pays and gap insurance, he is just giving us back what Brown took away.

McClure is no better. One term and gone.

Anonymous said...

Ummmm, deal with it soon, no deal with it now! Raises should be based on years of service just like the longevity. When listening to Mr. McClure’s address, it sounds like he is eliminating gap insurance and co-insurance, not co-pays, big difference. Let me guess, Mr. Mclure’s wife qualifies for both raises?

Anonymous said...

@ 4:14 - Totally agree! Deal with it now. RAISES SHOULD BE BASED ON YEARS OF SERVICE (paying for experience, loyalty, etc.)just like longevity.

Once again, long-term, experienced, loyal employees being screwed when the HIGH UPS get once amounts to just start.

Anonymous said...

Do you people ever stop bitching. If you hate it so much leave. I am sure there are many qualified people who would be thrilled to have a job with all those benefits. Stop your whining.

Anonymous said...

I thought raises are, in general, supposed to be based on effort and results.

Anonymous said...

@ 4:29 PM - "Qualified people" would not want to be screwed year after year.

@ 4:35 PM - Normally raises are given based on effort and results. NOT AT THE COUNTY! They are lucky to get anyone to apply and accept after hearing the salary.

Anonymous said...

I don’t leave because I actually enjoy my job and assisting the public, but when it becomes unapprecisted, it pretty much sucks! So I will whine all I want!!!!!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I understand and sympathize with your anger. McClure told me he fully intends to address salary compression. I believe it is the biggest morale buster out there. It leads to mandated OT at the jail and Gracedale when people quit. But he has had quite a bit on his place in his first year. When he first walked into his office, every shred of paper was gone. Then he was confronted by a runaway authority with a Solicitor who charged $700,000 in legal fees over one year. He hadto scramble to find money to pay for easements that his predecessor failed to budget. He had to address issues at Gracedale, like beds that people rolled off when they got on. He had to decide what to do about a county building that is falling off a cliff. And he had to decide what to do about health insurance. As you can see from his budget, he addresses quite a few issues that really have high priority. He had to devote time and energy to a forensic center, 911 consolidation and other issues.

He has reversed Brown on co-pays and gap insurance. He has instituted Tele-Doc,which saves $ for both the county and employee. He has even started a medical savings plan that will really help employees.

Those changes by themselves are going to increase the bottom line for county employees. But he recognizes he needs to do more. I believe he will. He understands that salary compression must be addressed. He has told me will do so. I believe him.

Anonymous said...

@ 6:03 PM - We hear you Bernie. However, years and years of lip service don't cut it. Now we will have to: (1) Wait another year while others get steps, and (2) then next year (if we stay for more lip service)our COLA is on an already unfair salary without the step that others got from 2019. This is not fair. Some of us do what we are supposed to (our jobs)to get a FAIR salary for and in some cases need a degree. Others don't, because they know they will get what the other employees get that work hard. However, we don't get a fair salary - just lip service year after year. So the message being sent is just show up and leave at the end of the day and you will get the same as others that work.

I don't care what Brown left him to deal with. I know what McClure promised.

We should not have to wait until year 3 or 4 (just in time for re-election - NOT) years for salaries to reflect actual job duties. DA Morganelli gets his people raises. ENOUGH is ENOUGH! What would you do without the valuable employees that actual make the place run.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The County would grind to a halt without its workforce.

I agree completely that the salary you are paid is unfair. I know most jobs are paid $3 per hour less than Lehigh. McClure, who has proven to me to be employee-oriented, has told me he plans to address it. As I said, I believe him. There probably needs to be a comprehensive salary study. You could ask McClure to have it done in the 2019 budget.

Anonymous said...

I’m just soooo disappointed, he made it seem like the employee was such a vital accent to the county government last November, this is just UNACCEPTABLE, and we all know it, wait another year for another budget, some of us don’t have a second salary to depend on!

Anonymous said...

I like to see a comprehensive study on volunteerism, maybe there are people who wouldn't mind doing a county job for a gas stipend and/or property tax exemption.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I have a bridge for you to buy.

Anonymous said...

@ 6:50 PM - That's basically what the County are getting paid - a gas stipend.

Anonymous said...

@ 6:39 PM - Heard McClure will not due a study because he can't afford to pay us what we are worth!!! Truth or Lie?

Anonymous said...

Oop - do and not due. That's what happens when you are piss-- with about continuous lies by politicians that say things to get in and then forget what they promised for ALL not just some.

Anonymous said...

How many studies are needed. Been there done that and nothing

Louie Denaldo said...

2% Cola? I’m a Pepsi man!

Anonymous said...

There are a couple people that just whine and whine. Give it a rest. Quit, and see if you can find a job that values you the way you think you should be valued. Some of you people would be kicked out in the private sector. Stop the me, me, me nonsense.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"How many studies are needed. Been there done that and nothing"

The last pay study was done early in John Stoffa's administration, only applied to nonunion people, and upset so many that he scrapped it. That would have to be updated, one done for the unions, and then it would have to be presented to a board of HR people.

If you want the situation addressed you can lobby for this. Or you can just bitch and get nowhere. I am trying to be helpful, and there's no need for you to act like a jerk to me.

Anonymous said...

McClure has been in office less than a year. We cant expect him to fix everything in 10 months. At least addressing the healthcare debacle employees can take care of health issues. Many of us have not been to the doctor because we can't afford the necessary testing. Let's give the man a chance.

Anonymous said...

The employee raise is right there in that 12.2 million dollar folly coming your way employees it's a morgue. How do you like your man McClure now? Jahajajajajajajajajaj

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I believe we truly believe your trying to be helpful. It is just that we, the County's most valuable assets, have been treated like shit for way too long. I don't believe that we don't believe you. It is we don't believe McClure!

You seem to have his ear. Is it true that he will not do a pay study because he knows that he wouldn't be willing to provide the proven salaries for the job? Please ask him for us. You have nothing to lose.

TeleDoc - don't know what it is and would like to know how many employees are actually using it and find it valuable. Would you be able to find that out for us Bernie?

Thank you for your blog. Otherwise, County employees would be totally out in the dark.

Anonymous said...

If you don't like how you're being treated by your employer, quit. It's just that simple. There are plenty of other employers out there looking for good hard working people.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You don't know about Tele-Doc? It's an app county employees can use for free.I have written about it. You can use to talk to a doctor, relay your symptoms, and get medical advice or a prescription.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I will get more info and do another story.

Bernie O'Hare said...

10:09, The only time I ever got mad at county employees is when they treated another county employee like shit. But I am pretty much with the workforce. I see what they do and how much they care. I really believe McClure intends to address this issue. Yes, it will cost $, but it will solve the problem of people leaving and mandated OT, and that saves $.

Anonymous said...

When was that 1:35?

Anonymous said...

Money was put aside to buy the Human Services building. Why do we need a big bond issue? Where is the money going? will the Human Services money be used for things not intended?

Anonymous said...

You. Ant read and comprehend can you 3:46am

Read the story again and pay attention, maybe read a little slower this time

Only a guy who spouts synergies and bullshit would say to pay it off cash

Dope

Anonymous said...

The counties best asset are the taxpayers that pay the bills. Employees are not that they are a needed sourxe bit not an asset

Anonymous said...

You need to follow up on the 911 consolidation because the very dispatchers who work there do not even know what is going on with the merger - I asked one this morning after reading your blog and he told me the administration will not be transparent with them, which I think is sad. Talk about jobs that are underpaid and underappreciated and have turnover - that is one job you couldn't pay me $100/hour to try.

Anonymous said...

I as a tax payer am willing to give Lamont time to address all the issues facing this county. He was left a mess and that is a fact. It's gonna take time and effort to sort thru all the John Brown bs left over from his reign of terror.He did the same to Bangor when he left after four years as mayor. Scorched earth and an empty cupboard!

Anonymous said...

You are obviously not a long-term County employee, who has been screwed over and over again.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Money was put aside to buy the Human Services building. Why do we need a big bond issue? Where is the money going? will the Human Services money be used for things not intended?"

This was all explained in the body of my post. Try reading it. If you did not understand it, repeating what I already wrote is not going to help you.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"You need to follow up on the 911 consolidation because the very dispatchers who work there do not even know what is going on with the merger - I asked one this morning after reading your blog and he told me the administration will not be transparent with them, which I think is sad. Talk about jobs that are underpaid and underappreciated and have turnover - that is one job you couldn't pay me $100/hour to try."

The reason that department is so bad is (1) Todd Weaver and (2) salary compression. It is no surprise he has said nothing to dispatches bc he himself does not know what is going on. What he does know is that there or no eyes on him in Upper Nazareth so he does what he wants.

The salary compression issue needs to be addressed, across the board. I employees are paid what they are worth, and know that their salaries will gradually go up the longer they are there, they will stick around.

Anonymous said...

Why not give step raises to everyone?? Why have the steps if the county isn't goin to use them???

Anonymous said...

Exactly right. When the steps were put in place, an employee was to get a step each year until they max out. Then they would only get a COLA. When that didn't happen is when the employees started getting screwed and around when unions started.
However, certain employees can't be in unions and thus always get screwed.

Bernie, since all McClure's cabinet will fall in the 1-4 year range, do they get steps and COLA?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I agree steps should be more or less automatic and based on years of service.

Anonymous said...

Doran is the man, has been for many many years...!

Anonymous said...

Pay the employees a fair wage. No need for Ken Kraft's new political payback position.