Westmoreland County Budget Holds the Line on Taxes in 2011

GREENSBURG (December 30, 2011) –Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas today issued the following statement regarding passage of the county’s 2011 county budget:

“First and foremost, this budget does not increase taxes, cuts millions of dollars in spending, and makes prudent investments in the county’s infrastructure and service programs. These important facts have unfortunately gotten lost in the politics and posturing that have taken over in the past week.

“This budget actually spends less from the county’s general fund than last year, and taxes are staying the same for the sixth consecutive year. These facts are especially significant given that revenues from property taxes remain flat. We are doing more with less.

“While watching the bottom line this budget also makes necessary investments to improve county facilities, modernize operations, expand recreation opportunities at our parks and protect important services for seniors, at-risk children and those with developmental disabilities.

“Despite the uncertainty of the past week, it has not been wasted time, as I have continued my efforts to better the budget. Over the past week, based on more accurate year-end estimates, I worked with our fiscal office to identify more than $200,000 in additional savings. This is on top of the almost $6 million we had already cut from the proposed budget.

“Personally, I have taken steps to minimize spending. I have refused a pay raise, and never accepted a cell phone, mileage reimbursement or a take-home vehicle. In fact, I went so far as to prohibit Commissioners from ever having take-home cars again, as part of completely rewriting the county’s vehicle policy, which will save taxpayers more money in long run.

“The budget we passed today is realistic, prudent and fiscally conservative.

“My Republican colleague, however, despite his objections, offered no alternative budget, no realistic plans and no details. Commissioner Anderson has chosen to seek political points instead of simply doing what’s right. His calculations have backfired, and only exposed him as an opportunist who is out-of-touch with fiscal reality, unconcerned about our constituents and uninformed about county operations.

“He worked with us to craft this budget, only to withdrawal his support for no valid reason other than to draw headlines. He criticized spending then voted to add jobs and give raises. He proposed generic cuts while approving contracts that actually raise the costs of services. He has sought to cut back life-saving programs that are funded exclusively though federal and state revenue streams.

“And finally, he spent the past week continuing to issue vague, overly-simplistic edicts to continue this sham and made no serious attempts to work at it or present an alternative budget. His inability to do so underscores the fact that the budget passed today is sound.

“But in the end, this is not about me, Commissioner Anderson or Commissioner Balya. It’s not about the hypocrisy or the threats to shut down the government. It is about being honest and straightforward with the taxpayers of Westmoreland County. They expect us to take this job seriously, put our egos aside, show some leadership, and do what’s right for them and for the future of this county. I am proud of the budget we passed today.”

The 2011 Westmoreland County budget is available on-line through the county’s homepage at www.co.westmoreland.pa.us .

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