With split vote, commissioners turn down additional 1% budget authority

YORK – With a vote of 3-2, the York County Commissioners turned down the ability to authorize an additional 1% in budget authority.

This is considered each June.

The additional 1% budget authority for the new fiscal year would have meant it was available if needed but not necessarily utilized. The board has the authority to ask for an additional 1%, which would allow for a 3.5% increase in the budget.

The authorization would allow them to utilize the increase if needed. Again, it wouldn’t have meant they would have used it.

Last year, the board voted to allow it. The year before, they turned it down.

It would have taken a super majority vote to pass it.

Before the vote, the commissioners had a healthy discussion.

“We are limited to 2.5% (in budget growth) but the board can override that by 1%,” Commissioner Chairman Randy Obermier said. “It doesn’t mean the budget is going up, it just means we would have the authority. I’m an advocate for it. It gives us the authority in the event of something happening that we can’t predict. It doesn’t mean the budget will increase by that.”

“Two years ago, we didn’t pass it and last year we did,” said Commissioner Daniel Grotz. “I waffle back and forth about what to do with it. It’s one place to stay conservative but as you said, things do come up and not doing it puts limitations on us and future boards.”

“Having gone through this with schools, I understand it,” said Commissioner Woody Ziegler. “But the challenge is where will that money come from. I was driving in and saw a cornfield that hadn’t been watered and the corn was just wilting away. The farmer has already run his pivot many times this year. So I thought about how he’s spending all this extra money this year to get a crop and I thought about where he will have more money to support another 1%. But I also think about our employees who will need future raises. I guess for me, it’s looking at where the extra money would come from. This drought is affecting everyone. If I knew we weren’t going to spend it, I’d say let’s do it.”

“But don’t we have a slush fund, in the inheritance fund?” asked Commissioner Stan Boehr. “Isn’t the inheritance fund there in case we run into trouble? I don’t think we need this additional authority because we already have the inheritance fund available.”

“Well, it is currently,” said Commissioner Grotz.

Inheritance tax in the state is consistently challenged at the legislative level, which has many counties concerned because it has become a crucial pot of money to cover unforeseen expenses and shortfalls. Some counties even rely on it for regular operations.

“The one thing we have to remember, to worry about, is that if we put forth inheritance tax for, let’s say wages, then next year we have to come up with more again,” Grotz said. “We have to be cognizant of that.”

“I won’t support taking inheritance funds to pay for something that occurs every year,” Ziegler said.

“I think we need to expend at least what the inheritance fund has grown by over the year, rather than just let the fund grow,” Boehr said.

Obermier and Grotz noted that the county has already been doing that.

“This isn’t growing the budget, this is allowing the authority,” Obermier said. “If we do our jobs, creating the budget, which I think we are and we have been doing, we can hold spending as much as we can. I also worry about the ripple effect into the future if we don’t pass the additional 1% authority.”

“Every entity, every program has come in asking for more money this year and they are seeing their federal and state dollars shrinking,” Ziegler added.

“This doesn’t automatically raise the budget, correct?” asked Commissioner Jack Sikes.

“Correct,” Obermier replied. “And we have to remember the costs of everything are going up, as we are all very aware.”

“Traditionally, this board has done very well keeping the budget in check and the spending as low as possible,” Grotz added.

“These programs that come in here wanting more money, they are wanting more for welfare programs yet people are begging for employees,” Boehr said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Ziegler asked how much an additional 1% would equate to, in dollars.

An additional 3.5% (which would be allowed if the 1% was granted) would equate to $246,796.

“Last year, our tax asking was $7.5 million,” Obermier said. “Not to minimize it, but when you look at that comparison, it’s (the $246,796) not a huge amount of money. Again, what I look at is the ripple effect down the road if we don’t.”

“The reason I keep going back to it is that ripple effect,” Grotz said. “Things aren’t going to get any cheaper. As a member of the budget committee, I will do all I can to keep the budget as low as we can. If we vote, as a board, unanimously to pass this, does that commitment matter to my fellow board members who are on the fence about this?”

“Historically, we have kept spending down as much as possible,” Obermier said. “Yes, we have a slush fund, if you will, but the inheritance fund will someday go away.”

Obermier made a motion to allow the additional 1% budget authority, which was seconded by Sikes.

“A few of us are sitting on the fence about this,” Grotz said. “If we have a unanimous decision, I will vote yes to do it and will again state my commitment to keep the budget in check.”

“I’m in the same position,” Ziegler said. “I see the need to have the authority and I see the reality. Yes, I want the authority to go up, but I don’t want to spend the money.”

As the roll was called, Ziegler and Boehr voted no. Grotz was third to vote and voted no. The motion failed and the additional budget authority was not passed.

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