Lehigh Valley

Northampton County Council reviews $379M budget for 2017

Northampton County Council Wednesday night began digging into the details of the proposed 2017 budget. 

The deadline to adopt the proposed $379 million budget, which contains no tax increase, is Dec. 17.

The proposed budget proposes to withdraw $8.2 million from reserves, an amount County Executive John Brown said will be redeposited into the account later in the year.

The 190-page budget also calls for the elimination of two positions in the recorder of deeds office, due in part because of the significant decline in real estate transactions and the increase in electronic fillings by lawyers and others, said director of fiscal affairs Jim Hunter; the savings are estimated at more than $90,000 a year.

"We're not seeing the foot traffic we've had [in the past]," Hunter told council.

The subject of countywide reassessment surfaced during discussions lead by council member Hayden Phillips.
The last time a new county reassessment on properties went into effect was 1995.

In his budget message to council, Brown cited several major events this year that will have an impact on next year.

Among them:

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services re-instituted a medical assistance program that increased expenditures $7.8 million and revenue $10.2 million at Gracedale, the county's nursing home, resulting in a revenue increase of $2.4 million.

After amending the absentee policy at Gracedale, shift "callouts" have decreased by 50 percent.

The county received approval to pursue a public-private partnership, called P3, to replace and repair 33 bridges in the county, a move that could save the county millions.

Council will continue its budget discussions at its next meeting in two weeks.

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