By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer
MERCER COUNTY —
Mercer County commissioners will likely approve this morning a $60 million budget for the coming year that holds the line on taxes and sets out savings goals for the coming year, but Fiscal Administrator John Logan said he can’t be that confident about coming years.
“Government costs money. We have to pay the people that provide those services,” he said. The county will finish 2013 with a balanced budget, he said, and he credits various departments for more than meeting last year’s savings targets.
“But I’m asking them again to save half a million dollars,” he added.
One of the disappointments of the coming budget, he said, is that there is no pay increase for Teamsters union employees who work at the Mercer County Jail or for the United Steelworkers union members who serve as sheriff’s duties because of ongoing labor negotiations.
“We have to maintain the status quo on salary and seniority because we can’t come to a labor agreement,” he said.
Commissioner Chairman John Lechner said the jail employees have been without a contract since Dec. 31 and that the sheriff’s deputies’ contract will expire in 27 days. He declined to comment about what the sticking points in the negotiations are.
Logan also said the increased costs of health care will be passed along to those employees, even without a contract, because they are covered under the same plan as other county employees.
He also discussed with the commissioners during Wednesday’s work session recent information he’d read about an effort on a state level to repair aging bridges. Logan said the county has received millions in state and federal funding to repair its bridges, yet on today’s agenda are two motions to extend the deadline for engineering work on both the Kelly Road bridge in Hermitage and the Race Street bridge in Greenville.
Logan said it does no good to have the money while waiting on historical and environmental studies to be completed.
“Now you’ve hit on one of my pet peeves,” Lechner said, “I’m still waiting to see if the Ohl Street bridge in Greenville falls into the river before the historical, environmental, architectural, etc., studies are done.”
Commissioner Matt McConnell said he’s broached the subject at meetings of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and has heard similar sentiments from other counties, but Mercer County differs in that it has more bridges than most that need work.
Commissioners will meet at 10 a.m. today in the assembly room in the courthouse.