Penn. counties approach statewide budget impasse with ingenuity

With state budget impasse dragging on, creativity has been key at the county level.


The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) said the commonwealth’s ongoing fiscal year 2015-16 budget stalemate has left counties no choice but to rise to the occasion so that business goes on as usual.

"Counties are employing a variety of tactics to deal with the budget impasse,” Brinda Carroll Penyak, deputy director of CCAP, recently told Pennsylvania Business Daily. “Each county is different, so there have been a range of strategies shared with us."

Creativity is a necessity as counties work to manage the growing financial impact they must incur as a result of the state’s budget deadlock, now in its fourth month. The ongoing standoff between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled state legislature has both parties blaming the other for lack of a budget, while counties around Pennsylvania attempt to implement policy measures that will ensure the continuation of myriad operations and services that usually are funded by state and federal dollars.

Additionally, counties now must wrestle independently with delayed payments in preparing their own 2016 budgets, the CCAP said. 

"Counties remain committed to the provision of critical human services, although some counties may be forced to stop providing services if cash flow issues can’t be addressed in other ways,” Penyak said.

Penyak outlined several strategies being undertaken around the state, including: using county property tax revenues to support programs typically funded with state dollars; stopping payments to providers until state funds are available; planning for cuts or decreases in programs to help sustain cash flow; considering adjustments such as reductions in staff pay, furloughs or layoffs; freezing hiring, travel and other non-critical purchases; and opening lines of credit or using tax anticipation notes to create a means of cash flow.

“Some counties have already reached the catastrophic point, while others may still view that as a few weeks or longer in the future,” Penyak said. 

With the budget impasse’s end currently nowhere in sight, though, Penyak said the CCAP's outlook remains positive. 

"We are hopeful that the governor and legislature will find some common ground that leads to on-time adoption of budgets in the future, assuring that funding levels meet the need we see out there."

The CCAP maintains a website where it is collecting related information at: www.pacounties.org.

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