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Cambria County passes budget with help from loan

By Maria Miller

CAMBRIA COUNTY, Pa. -- There were more heated disagreements in Cambria County Thursday morning as the commissioners unveiled and voted on next year's budget. It comes without any tax increases and the commissioners said it even shows a savings about $1.7 million, nut there's at least one person who said it isn't going to work.

The majority of the commissioners called the budget a success, one that's helping to improve the future of the county. But the county controller said it's another budget that won't work, a budget that's not taking into account scheduled bills and payments and overestimates the tax revenue that's expected to come in.

"This is the third budget in a row that this commission has passed without a tax increase," said president commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder.

But in order to get through this year the commissioners had to refinance a $19 million loan and take take out half of their $10 million dollar tax anticipation note early -- money the county depends on at the beginning of every year to get through until tax season.

"We are borrowing money ... $5 million to pay off a loan that was supposed to paid off in this year," said Cambria County Controller Ed Cernic. "Never in the ten years that I've been here has Cambria County failed to pay off their tax anticipation note until this year."

By taking half of the loan out early this year, Lengenfelder said they'll be able to pay it off faster and with less interest, avoiding the same problem next year. But Cernic said the budget doesn't take into consideration outstanding bills and money the county borrowed from itself.

"By the end of this year we'll owe our agencies over $6 million that we've borrowed and deplete all the funds," said Cernic. "We'll have well in excess of $3 million in unpaid bills on top of that."

"Ultimately in the next number of years there's a number of loans that we have that will be off. Our debt is decreasing," said commissioner Mark Wissinger. "This, we thought, was a more effective way to do it."

The budget passed with a 2-1 vote, commissioner Tom Chernisky being the lone opposed voter. He said he agreed with most of the budget, except a proposed $150,000 cut to Pennsylvania Highlands Community College.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times