Commissioner Kopas Opposes 2013 County Budget

“Republican Spending Plan Increases Deficit and Misuses Impact Fee”

GREENSBURG (December 20, 2013) – Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas today issued the following statement about his opposition to the 2013 county budget, approved by the Republican majority of the Board of Commissioners:

“The budget passed today increases the county’s operating deficit and is a misuse of funds from the natural gas impact fee. I cannot support it.

“Despite the promises of fiscal prudence and the inevitable spin about this budget, the numbers do not lie. The operating deficit in the county’s general fund is more than double what it was just three years ago. In 2011, we ended the year with a $2.9 million deficit. This year the deficit will end at $5.5 million. The budget passed by my colleagues for 2013 sets the deficit at $6 million. This is a dangerous trend and unsustainable.

“In actuality the deficit is much worse. This budget uses the entirety of the county’s discretionary funds, and even some of the non-discretionary funds, from the natural gas impact fee – that’s $3.25 million – to fund general government operations. This was not the intent of the law, nor the expressed desire of the residents of this county.

“We held a series of public meetings this summer regarding the impact fee and heard of the desperate need for community infrastructure, firefighter equipment, public libraries, social services and more. This budget ignores all of that. And, unfortunately, it also ignores the potential environmental impacts of gas drilling which was the whole point of the state enacting an impact fee.

“Further, there is also an attempt to mask the true deficit of 2013, spending an additional $1.1 million this year by ramming through amendments to the 2012 budget. These are items that were originally budgeted for next year or, worse, never budgeted at all. This is more than a million dollars of taxpayer money that was not subject to the scrutiny of the annual budget process.

“Working with my colleagues over the past year we’ve made significant progress on healthcare, banking and transportation, among other measures, to improve services and efficiencies and to save money. But I cannot vote for their budget that increases the county’s operating deficit and betrays the public’s trust.”