- Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 May 2012 23:16
- Published on Tuesday, 29 May 2012 23:16
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The Westmoreland Supervisors met last Friday morning and adopted the new budget and the companion two-cent tax hike on real estate, utilities and mobile homes. Third District Supervisor Rosemary Mahan cast the sole dissenting vote, maintaining that the two-cent tax increase was too little and that the five percent pay increase the additional revenue supported was too little for the school division’s teachers.
The revenue generated by the higher tax rates was to have been used for teacher salary adjustments that would appropriately reflect years of service in the county school division. The measure would optimize retention of experienced teachers, but the revenue will instead be used to offset a late session General Assembly requirement involving larger employee contributions to the state pension plan.
Mahan shared an unfavorable comparison of her own workplace culture and the public employee workplace culture in Westmoreland County.
Demanding that workers continue to do more and more with diminishing resources is not right, she told the other members of the Board. Mahan recommended that the county use revenue currently held in a non-obligated reserve account to more appropriately fund the schools.
Board Chairman Darryl Fisher told Mahan that her points were valid but that he wanted the county to continue holding money in reserve in case the economy gets worse. He said a greater workforce priority should be avoiding the need to lay off school and county employees.
Fisher additionally noted that real estate taxes are the major generator of revenue in the rural jurisdiction. “We have to be cautious of how much stress we put on the individuals who pay that tax,” he stated. “The budget we have isn’t perfect, but I believe it’s the best we can put together for the kind of time that we are in.”
Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Woody Hynson expressed similar sentiments, commenting that the current budget issues are “nothing new. We can all wish these were good economic times, but that is not the case. I can think of no one I respect any more than I respect this county’s teachers and I’ll vote for a raise for teachers before I’ll vote for bricks for a new school. Before that happens, this bad economy will have to turn around.
“Those of us who have been on this Board long enough were able to anticipate the bad times that we are in and we did what we had to do. It’s impossible to know when things will turn around. I don’t see it getting better, so for me to want to spend more money would be wrong due to the chance things will get worse in the economy.
“This isn’t the budget any of us would like to have, but we have a balanced budget and for that I won’t apologize. We want to avoid the necessity of having to lay off teachers if things are worse next year. It’s better to live tight and keep everybody working,” Hynson said.
In other discussion, Mahan persuaded a majority of the Board members to raise the individual Board of Supervisors annual expenditures allowance from $1,300 to $1,500. Supervisor Dorothy Tate likewise caused the Board to allocate $15,000 for the free health clinic instead of the lesser amount listed in the 2012-2013 budget. The additional revenues will be transferred from the contingency account.