Blair County budget calls for tax increase

Hollidaysburg, Blair County, Pa. - The Blair County Commissioners explained this morning that the longer the county waits to solve issues, the more expensive it gets. This has resulted in a higher payment toward pensions and a real estate tax increase. 

The commissioners approved a budget for the public to inspect that includes a 25 percent increase in real estate tax. To homeowners in the county, that adds .79 mills to the tax rate, causing them to pay more. 

Currently, the millage rate for Blair County is 3.135. That means for every $1,000 of your house's taxed value, you pay $3.135. With the increase of .79, the rate goes to 3.925.

The finance director projects the increase accounts for 6.2 million dollars in real estate tax revenue. Overall, real estate related revenue will account for 52 percent of the total budget.  

Chairman Bruce Erb said,  "We did not really realize what our financial position was until the last 3 or 4 weeks how perilous it was until finance presented those numbers to us. The circumstances were much bleaker than we thought they were."

They say the county has been relying on its unassigned general funds in order to operate. 
In 2014 the balance was more than $20.5million. They project that by the end of 2018, those funds will be left with only $2.3 million. 

The commissioners estimate 2017 will end with a budget shortfall of nearly $3 million. But with the changes in the 2018 budget, they project a shortfall of just about $900,000. They say this year's process was open and made available for public input.

Erb explained, "I don't think the process has ever been more transparent than it ha been this year. We know we have problems, problems have existed, but we have bared our soul, our financial soul to the public on this."   

The commissioners held 17 public work sessions since October which accounted for 40 hours. Commissioner Ted Beam Jr. said, "People are going to take shots at us, obviously, that's ok, we knew that coming in. But, I think we've done what we can do. "

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