This year's plan comes in with about $2 million less spending than last year. To get there Commissioner Chair Maryanne Petrilla wants to close Moon Lake Park and the ball fields at the Forty Fort Airport plus all employees are to take 12 furlough days without pay. Commissioner Steve Urban wants 24 furlough days. That will be problematic because it needs agreement from the unions and the row officers. One of the problems with our present form of government is the row officers are not accountable to anyone which hopefully be rectified by the new county charter that will be written by the Government Study Commission. I have to disagree with the Blogfather, I think the unions will cooperate to save as many jobs as they can. The problems we face today are not the fault of the unions but the past administration of the Bond Brothers.
The biggest hole in the budget is the more than doubling of debt service from $9.5 million this year to $21.7 million in 2010. Every budget that Greg Skrepenak and Todd Vonderheid with the help of Sam Diaz put together refinanced existing debt and had unrealistic revenues.
Chief of Budget and Finance Tom Pribula has told the commissioners the county should not borrow any money next year. Pribula said Skrepenak wants "another Diaz budget with unfunded debt."
"Your eyes would come out your head if you realized the ridiculous, fictitious revenues that were in this county that never came to fruition, which has put us in this spot."
Profile in courage Commissioner Greg Skrepenak doesn't want to eliminate any county jobs and will not support a tax increase.
I've been bitching about the creative accounting (lies) in the Luzerne County budget process as long as I've been blogging.
Another work of fiction
With all the outrage over the Debit Card scandal the fact that the latest Luzerne County budget doesn't add up has been overlooked. This year's plan has an eerie resemblance to last year's nonsense with even more invented revenues. Last year the budget called for $4 million from land sales that never happened and this year the figure is $6.3 million. Last year the county was supposed to get $3 million from beefed-up tax collections and they inflate that to $14 million from collection of unpaid property taxes for 2008.
The number that jumps out at you in the end is a 18.5% increase in property taxes. Steve Urban did the responsible thing and voted for the budget to move the process forward but he is not happy about it.
"I'm going to vote to put the budget on the table, but I'm going to tell you right now, I'm not going to vote on this tax increase," Urban said. "And I'll vote to shut this place down on Dec. 30, if we don't have a budget that makes sense to me and we don't have the spending cuts that I believe are necessary to move this county forward."
I doubt that the tax increase will be that big but in the end there will be a tax increase. I realize that taxes are the price we pay for civilization but I want to be assured that my tax money is being spent for things that are absolutely necessary. There have always been rumors of no show jobs and documented cases of outright theft in the Luzerne County courthouse that makes me reluctant to support a tax increase. I'm coming around to Big Dan and the Yonk's idea of just blowing up the place and starting over.