County looking at tax hike

Venango County commissioners approved a tentative 2020 budget Tuesday that calls for a hefty tax increase.

The proposed spending plan would raise taxes from 6 to 7 mills.

Diona Brick, the county’s finance director, said the increase of about 15% would mean that on average a homeowner would pay about $60 more in county real estate taxes.

The millage rate was last raised in 2013 from 5.56 mills to 6.00 mills, Brick said.

The vote to approve the tentative budget was 2-1 with commissioners chairman Tim Brooks and Albert Abramovic voting yes and Vince Witherup casting the no vote.

Brick said many expenses in the budget are going up, and she cited employee salaries and benefits, as well as costs at the county jail, as the areas with the biggest increases.

The only area where county expenses are going down is under the heading of culture and recreation, which covers county parks, Brick said.

A budget handout presented at Tuesday’s meeting indicates the county tax base is assessed at $2.03 billion which results in gross billings of about $14 million.

There are 36,018 taxable parcels in Venango County, and an additional 2,205 parcels in the county are tax-exempt.

The county offers a homestead exemption of $10,000 for all who apply and qualify for the exemption. There are about 14,700 property owners who qualify for this exemption.

The median value of a parcel in Venango County was estimated at $57,653 this year, and the county’s annual real estate taxes for an average home were about $403.

Totals revenues in 2020 are projected to be $57,954,498, an increase of 1.5% from the 2019 revenue budget.

Total expenses next year are projected to be $59,894,816, which is a decrease of .9% from the 2019 budgeted expenses.

The county’s general fund budget, excluding Human Services, is projected to be $21,609,178, about 36% of the entire budget.

The Human Services portion of the county’s budget is not funded utilizing the county’s assessed millage.

There was no mention at Tuesday’s meeting about any possible changes involving county workforce or services in light of the proposed tax increase.

The tentative budget will be on display in the commissioners office at the Venango County Courthouse and online until the panel’s Dec. 10 meeting, when the panel will vote on the final spending plan.