Mercer County Courthouse

Herald File

The Mercer County Courthouse at night.

MERCER – Despite economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, Mercer County officials presented a balanced budget that holds the line on property taxes.

Commissioners also decided in the 2021 budget of 52,184,640 not to assess the $5 per capita tax, an action that will save taxpayers $260,000.

Total county millage remains at 23.65 for the second consecutive year after two years of property tax cuts.

“Reflecting the commissioners’ concern for economic damage done by the coronavirus,” said John Logan, fiscal administrator. “By managing our costs and holding the line on taxes, we are helping everyone recover.”

Commissioner Matt McConnell said the county is able to present a balanced 2021 budget because of the $9.8 million grant from the federal government as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security Act adopted in March.

“We have not had costs for COVID that couldn’t be reimbursed,” McConnell said. “There’s been participation from every department for personal protective equipment, extra work keeping the building safe. The costs have been paid for by CARES.”

The CARES money covered a lot of overtime hours worked by county employees.

“Employees pulled together and worked harder in order to accomplish a lot of the same things in a stressful, restricted way,” McConnell said.

The commissioners also have approved spending $1,173,265 to provide internet service in northcentral Mercer County for between 220 and 335 rural households between Sandy Lake and Greenville.

CARES money spent at the county have included items such as updating video monitoring systems in courtrooms and building protective plexiglass partitions in most departments. The courthouse also spent CARES money on temperature-monitoring devices, personal protective equipment and cleaning equipment.

“People did pull together. I’m proud of Mercer County and getting the work done,” McConnell said.

Commissioner Tim McGonigle said the county has also curtailed spending, compared with previous years.

“A lot of monies spent every year haven’t been spent, like travel,” McGonigle said.

The budget also allows for pay increases of 1.75% to non-union county employees, and the county is meeting a similar obligation with bargaining units with labor agreements in effect, Logan said.

A major challenge for the county for the next eight to 10 years continues to be bridge repair and replacement, Logan said.

“We have 30 bridges built 50 years ago with open-grate decks,” he said. “Winter road salt has accelerated the normal corrosion process on those decks and supporting beams, such that last year we moved them forward in our replacement calendar.”

The commissioners could make some changes to the 2021 budget at Thursday’s meeting, with final approval scheduled at their Dec. 3 meeting.

Follow Melissa Klaric on Twitter and Facebook @HeraldKlaric, email: mklaric@sharonherald.com.

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