MERCER — County commissioners adopted a 2020 budget Thursday, completing their four-year term without raising property taxes.
Matt McConnell, chairman, and commissioners Scott Boyd and Tim McGonigle adopted budgets for 2017 and 2018 with property tax decreases. They held property taxes at 23.65 mills for 2019 and 2020.
All three commissioners were reelected last month. McConnell will begin his third term in January, and Boyd and McGonigle will serve a second term.
“We’re very happy to do that without a tax increase,” McConnell said Thursday.
The general fund budget calls for revenues of $33,872,963 and expenditures of $33,853,474, for a projected surplus of $19,489. Total expenditures, including funding from state and federal sources, is $78,069,557.
McGonigle and Boyd credited department heads and row officers for keeping a tight rein on spending.
“I think everybody across the courthouse has tightened their belt quite a bit,” McGonigle said.
Next year’s budget includes 2.25 percent salary increases for most county employees not covered by union contracts. McConnell said that was one of the largest pay increases in recent memory.
The county was able to absorb more than $1 million in costs associated with purchasing and using a new paper ballot-based voting system that made its debut in the Nov. 5 general election. The new system used optical scan devices and a ballot marking machine at each precinct.
To pay for that investment, the county withdrew $1,023,743 from its capital reserve fund.
And that’s not the end. A state law passed just before the election last month will require the county to purchase two high-speed scanners.
The new law, Act 77 of 2019, expands eligibility for Pennsylvania residents to vote by mail. With the expectation that more people will mail in their ballots, the county will have to buy the additional scanners to count those votes, which would increase the total cost to $1,119,717.54.
The law also includes additional state funding to help individual counties pay for changes to their voting system. Under that provision, the commissioners plan to apply for a grant for up to 60 percent of the expense, an estimated $671,830.52.
If Mercer County receives any funding through the Act 77 grant, it would deposit it in the capital fund, said Nicki Biles, assistant fiscal director.
Follow Eric Poole on Facebook or Twitter @HeraldEricPoole. Email him at email@example.com