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County Hall Corner: Long Day’s Journey in County Government

In the hundreds of Lycoming County Commissioner Meetings I have attended in the past seven years, I do not remember any that had as many people turning up representing so many different issues and concerns. It was no surprise that the meeting on Tuesday, November 16th, probably set a record running well over three hours

In the hundreds of Lycoming County Commissioner Meetings I have attended in the past seven years, I do not remember any that had as many people turning up representing so many different issues and concerns. It was no surprise that the meeting on Tuesday, November 16th, probably set a record running well over three hours long. Yet, despite the length, it was possibly one of the most informative and important Commissioners’ meetings that they have held for some time. For the curious, it is available on YouTube by searching “Lycoming County Commissioners Meeting” for that date.

It is frustrating that I can only highlight so many worthwhile issues that were brought up. The first was the Proclamation for Infant Safe Sleep Month presented by the Lycoming County Coroner’s Office Deputy Coroner Kathryn Nichols. The Coroner Chuck Kiessling has championed this since 2008. It deserves attention as 3,500 babies every year die nationally from an unsafe sleep environment. On behalf of State Rep Joe Hamm, Eric Houser added a state proclamation affirming the same focus as the county.

Then came a brief presentation of a Lycoming County Library Board 30-year service award to Evelyn Derrick from the Muncy Public Library. This was followed by a presentation by Dave Huffman from the Register & Recorder’s Office as part of the County Department Informational Series.

Following quickly was the Pennsylvania Wilds Champion Award for the Business of the Year presented to Wolfe’s General Store located in Slate Run in the Pine Creek Valley area. This was quite a big deal as it brought out State Senator Gene Yaw, Lycoming County Chamber of Commerce President Jason Fink, who is on the board of Pennsylvania Wilds, as well as Eric Houser representing State Rep Joe Hamm, again adding their commendations to Wolfe’s General Store. This is a unique award because, as Senator Yaw noted, it was given to the store, not an individual. The significance is that the store is an attraction that brings tourists and possibly also those who find the area so enticing they want to choose to live here.

Every meeting has its necessary procedural stuff, and this started with Brandy Clemens presenting the accounts payable cash requirements, quickly followed by Roxanne Grieco’s personnel actions. These were mercifully dispensed expediently. All this took almost an hour — and finally came the public comments, which normally are on the very front end. (Note: this is because state law requires that the public must be permitted to comment on any item on the agenda before it is voted on. This is also true with city, borough, and township government meetings. FYI).

Up to this point, nothing came up that required action, but for the next two hours provided lots of action. The main topic was additional funding for the county library system. Full disclosure — this is a personal passion as I have been on the Montgomery Public Library board for almost fifteen years now. But I am not the only one passionate about the impact libraries make. The advocates came to the podium one after another to speak on behalf of the library system. Then the commissioners themselves presented their views of the system in light of the bigger picture.

That bigger picture was the proposed 2022 budget. This will be covered in more detail in next week’s County Hall Corner, but here are some basic numbers to begin to chew on. The projected revenue for 2022 is $102.9M, which is $4M or .4% from our current year. The projected expenditures for 2022 is $127.5M, a $7.3M or 6% increase from this year’s budget. On the revenue side, taxes and service fees are increasing; however, they are being offset by decreases in almost every other category of revenue area. This is important; there are no tax increases or fee increases in this budget.

Many issues are swirling around the budget, and as evidenced by the county library system that was advocating for an additional $63,000, which in a budget of over $102M, is .0006%. It illustrates budget battles when even 6/10,000th of a percent is worth fighting over.

It also deserves a preview. Yes, reading budgets can be sleep-inducing, to be sure, but it is worth the time as literally everyone in the county is impacted in one way or another by what is in that budget. For a look at the preliminary budget, check it out on the county website, lyco.org. The formal adoption of the budget will be on Tuesday, December 7th.

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