Cambria courthouse

The Cambria County Courthouse in Ebensburg is shown Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017.

EBENSBURG – Cambria County’s commissioners on Wednesday said that they do not plan to raise real estate taxes in the county’s 2020 budget.

The budget will be available to be viewed by members of the public through Dec. 18 in the commissioners’ office at the Cambria County Courthouse, 200 S. Center St., Ebensburg. The commissioners are expected to adopt the budget at their Dec. 19 public meeting.

Cambria County’s $58.9 million 2020 general fund budget reflects a 1.9% decrease from 2019’s budget. Michael Gelles, the county’s chief clerk, said on Wednesday that the biggest single reason for that decline is that Cambria County Conservation District grant revenue that was included in 2019’s budget is not included in 2020’s budget.

“Most of the expenses are pretty much status quo,” Gelles said. “There’s some increases for salaries, of course – part of the union contracts. The major reason for the decrease is that the Conservation District had budgeted, in 2019, grant funding for some of their programs. … That flowed through the system. That’s the biggest reason for the decline in the overall budget.”

The 2020 budget keeps the county’s millage rate at 33.5 mills, Gelles said, adding that 27.5 mills are used for general purposes, 4 mills for debt service, 1 mill for Pennsylvania Highlands Community College and half a mill each for the Cambria County Library System and for the county’s parks and playgrounds.

Cambria County Commissioners Thomas Chernisky, William “B.J.” Smith and Mark Wissinger noted in a press release issued Wednesday that 2020 will be the county’s second consecutive year with no change in property taxes. That follows two consecutive years of half-mill tax cuts, in 2017 and 2018.

“This board of commissioners has worked together to get our fiscal house in order by controlling spending,” Smith said in the press release, “and we have stopped the practice of overestimating revenue and using fictitious grant dollars to balance the budget.”

Chernisky thanked “all the elected officials, department heads, employees and the courts for working together to hold the line on the budget,” and Wissinger called the news “a positive step” that he expects property owners to welcome.

Mark Pesto is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkPesto.

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