Blair spending slashed for ’22 | News, Sports, Jobs

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Blair County’s 2022 draft budget deficit fell to around $ 3 million on Monday when commissioners met to resume their focus on the spending plan.

Since their last budget meeting in October, projected spending has been reduced from approximately $ 1 million to $ 58.97 million, while projected revenues have remained at

$ 55.96 million.

CFO Jennifer Sleppy said the reduction reflects savings resulting from a refinement of the job vacancy projection rate and the latest health insurance cost estimate.

The commissioners, who will call another budget meeting on Wednesday, targeted

December 3 for the introduction of a balanced spending plan and supportive tax rates.

While much of Monday’s meeting was spent researching potential budget cuts, commissioners also discussed issues that could increase spending next year.

Two groups of lawyers who handle specific assignments at the county’s request have not had a pay rise since 2011, President Justice Elizabeth Doyle and Commissioner Laura Burke reported at Monday’s budget meeting.

“The price of everything has gone up in a decade, and the price of these lawyers’ excellent service to the public has also gone up,” said Doyle. “It is high time for them to increase. “

Burke said the Children, Youth and Families Budget proposes a 20% increase in the monthly allowance of $ 1,750 paid to local lawyers who act as hearing officers, guardians and who represent parents. in CYF procedures.

“Lawyers are busier now than they’ve ever been”, Burke said. “And they deal with more complex cases. “

Commissioner Bruce Erb asked for data to support the increase request, but not because he opposed it. The 20 percent increase, Erb pointed out, equates to 2 percent per year over 10 years.

Commissioner Amy Webster also requested more information on the possibility of state reimbursement to offset the cost of attorneys responsible for representing parents in CYF cases.

Doyle also asked for a 10 percent salary increase for the five defense attorneys, called dispute panel attorneys, who represent defendants who cannot be legally represented by the public defender’s office.

These lawyers, she said, are currently earning $ 2,500 per month.

A 10 percent increase, she said, would raise their wages to $ 2,750 per month, the equivalent of about $ 15,000 per year.

Although the $ 15,000 proposal was not included in the court’s budget request, Doyle said it had to be included as the workload of these lawyers increases, as does their employment opportunities.

“I believe we cannot attract new dispute lawyers at the current rate of pay, especially in the current hiring climate, where the private sector offers so much more,” said Doyle.

Commissioners are also encouraged to consider budgeting more to accommodate a salary increase for poll workers. The current salary, based on a 2015 vote by the county electoral board, ranges from $ 85 to $ 115, depending on poll size and responsibilities during the 13-hour voting period, as well as duties of opening and closing.

Sleppy told Commissioners Principal Sarah Seymour was proposing $ 150 for a precinct judge and $ 125 for inspectors / clerks, which would increase current spending from $ 95,000 to around $ 140,000.

“I personally think that we owe them that”, said Erb.

As for other election-related costs, Erb expressed frustration with the state’s lack of financial assistance to cover costs associated with maintaining the voting system as the state requires. Webster agreed.

“As a liaison officer for this office, it’s frustrating”, she said. “We can’t cut anything. “

Commissioners agreed on Monday to cut budget funding for farmland preservation from $ 100,000 to $ 70,000 due to lower income for Marcellus Shale. This year’s earnings fell to $ 71,383 from earnings of $ 103,472 in 2020, Sleppy reported.

The commissioners also agreed to budget for a replacement vehicle for the sheriff’s office instead of two at an estimated cost of $ 100,000 for the pair. The commissioners also agreed that the replaced vehicle can be made available to the prison and reduce its budget request for a vehicle.

Mirror staff editor Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.

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