MERCER — For the second consecutive year, Mercer County Commissioners will hold property taxes steady at 23.65 mills.
The commissioners approved a preliminary 2020 budget Thursday. The spending plan will be on display at the courthouse beginning today until the scheduled final approval Dec. 5.
Before this two-year run, the commissioners cut taxes for two consecutive years. During their four-year term, the commissioners decreased taxes by 0.75 mills.
In Tuesday’s election, voters retained all three commissioners — Chairman Matt McConnell, and Scott Boyd and Tim McGonigle — for another four-year term.
McConnell said the fiscal success has been a team effort from the row officers and appointed department heads throughout the courthouse.
“The people here have utilized processes and procedures to not only reduce costs, but also increase efficiency,” he said.
The 2020 budget calls for general fund revenues of $33,822,963 and expenditures of $33,796,534, with increases of about 4.28 percent from 2019 in both categories. The total budget, including pass-through funds from the state and federal government, is $77,419,620.
The owner of a property valued at $75,000 would pay $1,773.75 in county taxes.
Mercer County Fiscal Administrator John Logan said the county faces challenges from salary increases of about 2.25 percent for employees, but a lower-than-expected hike of between 2 and 4 percent for employee health care insurance. He credited his staff for assembling the 2020 budget.
Logan said the county is looking at significant investment in its bridge infrastructure starting in 2020. County commissioners have said adequate maintenance of the bridges could cost $30 million over 10 years.
“We have 30 bridges built 50 years ago with open-grate decks,” he said in a statement. “Winter road salt has accelerated the normal corrosion process on those decks and supporting beams, such that we have moved them forward in our replacement calendar.”
However, Logan said PennDOT has agreed to split $4 million in bridge repairs with the county for 2020. Boyd credited McConnell with negotiating the PennDOT deal.
McConnell said Mercer County will continue to look for ways to save money on bridges, including the use of innovative construction techniques, and find outside sources of revenue to decrease the county’s cost for maintenance. He also credited bridge engineer Bradley Elder for steps to control expenses.
That goes for programs throughout county government, as well, said McGonigle.
“We’re continuing to look at initiatives to save money,” he said.
Boyd said the tax rates are an example of the commissioners making good on their word.
“We’re keeping our promises to keep the budget under control,” he said.