Friday, December 03, 2021

McClure's Tax-Cut Budget Passed by NorCo Council

Northampton County Council voted 7-2 last night to approve a $528 million spending plan for next year. The sole No votes came from Tara Zrinski and John Cusick. Zrinski was still upset about the payraises in the elections office and a contingency fund increase that will give County Council control over $450,000. She supported both of them just the day before, and even said at one point that she just wanted there to be a discussion. John Cusick voted No to the budget because the budget for Gracedale is based on a census of 575. "If it were a novel, you'd have to put it in the fiction section," he complained. 

In addition to approving the budget, County Council also voted, 8-1, to cut taxes by one mill ($8.6 million) for all county taxpayers, from 11.8 to 10.8 mills. 

Peg Ferraro opposed the tax rate decrease because she said there are "so many other needs" in the County. She said the money could be spent on county employees to work at Gracedale. Ron Heckman said that, historically, tax reductions have resulted in a need to raise them the following year. He added, however, that the county's cash reserves are very healthy. 

A home assessed at $75,000 will receive a tax bill next year that drops from $885 to $810. The budget is also balanced. 

This budget was reviewed by County Council in a series of five budget hearings. Council basically accepted the budget as proposed, but included amendments regarding salaries and its contingency fund.  In an oddity of the county's home rule charter, a thumbs down would mean the spending plan as proposed would go into effect automatically. 

Budget highlights:

1. One Mill Tax Cut ($8.6 million in savings to all Northampton County Taxpayers)
2. Fund Balance:  Emergency Stabilization $17.4 Million (9.3% of General Fund) & $21.4 Million Unassigned for a total of approximately $39 million in reserve.
3. $12.2 Million in Operational Cuts or a (12.8% reduction in spending identified through improved management countywide).
4. A one step increase for all nonunion county employees (4.5%)
5. Fully funding pension, unemployment and OPEB obligations.
6. Meeting all matching requirements from the state and federal government for pass through funding for COVID relief and Human Services provided by Northampton County.

McClure's spending plan continues a continued commitment to fund open space preservation at $3 million every year. This is accomplished by purchasing conservation easements under which farmers agree to never develop their land. In addition, the county purchases environmentally sensitive land and both creates and maintains parks. In his budget message, McClure states his object is to both preserve green space and limit warehouse proliferation. 

McClure stated his budget will continue the pandemic relief and assistance to county residents. This includes $25 million in relief to small businesses. 


Anonymous said...

Pardon my ignorance. Why would council vote on a tax rate (increase, decrease, unchanged) before going through budget meetings? They vote to set tax income, and then figure out later how to make whatever they voted on work? That seems backwards.

Bernie O'Hare said...

They adopt a budget and then vote on the tax rate that pays for it. I remember one year in which Council was ready to vote it down after approving the budget. I remember another more recent year in which the Council Clerk, Linda Zembo, actually forgot to include the millage rate in the meeting adopting the budget.

Anonymous said...

Now wait a minute - you start off by saying council approved the budget and end up by saying that tbey still have to review it. They're supposed to review it before approving
What gives?

Bernie O'Hare said...

You're right. I corrected my story.

Anonymous said...

I heard if Lynch was elected he was going to announce the county budget from the front seat of a pick up truck going down 248 between talking about the Maxwell trial and Kyle Rittenhouse...

Anonymous said...

just finished watching the county council meeting on youtube. weird story in public comment about nazareth municipal sewer buying land in plainfield township to dump their sewage? not related to budget, but seems like a interesting story. how can a municipal board dump sewage on land where they have no constituency? how do the people of plainfield vote out the nazareth board? seems like a shiddy move by nazareth municipal authority. if they did this to a nazareth community, they'd be voted out.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes, I am intrigued by what she had to say. Frankly, I am unperturbed by shit, which is what everyone calls biosolids. Shit has been used both as fertilizer and as fuel for thousands of years. It gives my salads a certain "Je ne sais quoi." But I realize that everyone hates the smell of other people's shit and farts and mount vigorous campaigns against sludge. No worries, Council and McClure are firmly against shit, except for their own.

As for your claim that the authority would be voted out if it tried that shit in Nazareth, you're full of shit. That's because authority members are appointed,not elected. Authorities are far more scary than shit and have immense powers.

Now I have to go take a shit.

peterjcochran said...

Is Lamont the only Democratic in this country to effect a tax cut? Well I’m an HARD R and I voted for ONLY HIM - the only Democratic I at this point I would vote for. Now some people would get plain stupid with this. Criminal activity in many ares and Dems are inhabitants and letting defendants out on ZERO bail and all that. My opinion of the County Administrator is that he looks out for us tax payers . What do you say?

Anonymous said...

Its a tax break on paper and its very little, but is it still going to be a tax break when they conduct up to date property assessment values and raise the price of home value? if anything the taxes will be going up and i'll be hard pressed to see if that dosent happen in 2021 it was talked about it very recently, lets hope not and time will tell.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The salary does not go into effect until AFTER the next Exec race, and by then will be too liw

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifying

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Its a tax break on paper and its very little, but is it still going to be a tax break when they conduct up to date property assessment values and raise the price of home value? if anything the taxes will be going up and i'll be hard pressed to see if that dosent happen in 2021 it was talked about it very recently, lets hope not and time will tell."

You're referring to a politically unpopular but overdue re-assessment. No money is budgeted for reassessment in next year's budget. It won't happen in 2021 or 2022. I know McClure has always been less than enthusiastic about it, but when properties go too long without re-assessment, inequities arise. In fact, I think the county would lose if sued. About 1/3 of property owners would see taxes go up, another third would see them go down and a third would be unaffected.