Centre County’s proposed 2024 budget includes more money for capital projects, no tax increase

Centre County residents will not see an increase in their county real estate taxes for another year, the proposed 2024 county budget shows.

The newly reelected Centre County board of commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to adopt the 2024 tentative county budget. The proposed operating budget is $113,137,810, a 6% increase from the 2023 budget. For the 14th consecutive year, there is no increase in the county’s real estate taxes; the total millage will remain 7.84 mills.

“Glad to see that we’re putting forth our 223rd budget on time, nearly balanced,” Commissioner Mark Higgins said. “No property tax increase from county government for 14 years in a row, which is very difficult to do.”

Commissioner Amber Concepcion said a lot of work went into the budget to ensure it lined up with priorities and mandates in terms of what the county is required to do, and the community’s expectations of the level of services the county provides.

Salaries and employee benefits make up a large chunk of the budget, about $42.8 million. John Franek, county administrator, said county employees will receive a 2% pay raise in the proposed budget, in addition to step increases.

Higgins said some cutbacks are proposed from several departments.

“Just a couple positions though,” Higgins said. No one lost their job, Franek told the Centre Daily Times, and those cutbacks could have been through not filling a position or part of a restructuring.

At $28.6 million, the 2024 proposed capital budget is much larger than in previous years. Richard Killian, the county’s director of budget and finance, said this is due to renovations at the courthouse and Centre Crest, and Willowbank maintenance and design for future use.

The budget includes general fund reserves and American Rescue Plan Act funds to maintain current funding levels and county services, Killian said.

Commissioner Steve Dershem cautioned that in the future, the county will have to do without the American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“We saw a significant increase in health care costs in the 2024 budget. I’m going to remind the board that this ARPA money doesn’t last forever and at some point we’re going to have to tighten up our belt and make sure that we can function moving forward without those subsidies,” Dershem said.

The proposed budget shows about $112.2 million in revenues, a 5.1% increase compared to the 2023 budget. Higgins said that’s due to an increase in grants from the state and federal governments, as well as an increase in interest earnings in the past year.

The county will advertise the budget for public inspection; the board is expected to officially adopt the budget on Dec. 5.