Dissecting the proposed 2013 Luzerne County budget is a daunting exercise because the 200-page document is packed with thousands of figures on past and present spending and receipts.
Here are some highlights of the $122.25 million plan based on information from the document, other records and county Manager Robert Lawton.
The proposal keeps property taxes at 5.32 mills, or $532 on a $100,000 property.
Property owners will continue receiving a roughly $50 homestead tax break on primary residences – a benefit that costs more than $4 million.
The budget counts on $98.5 million in property tax receipts.
The county Convention and Visitors Bureau's county allocation was cut in half to $40,000 this year and will be eliminated altogether in 2013.
The downtown Wilkes-Barre agency's primary revenue streams are a 20-percent cut of the hotel tax, visitor guide advertising and membership dues. Growth in the hotel industry has increased the agency's share of the hotel tax revenue from $257,981 in 1997 to $480,130 in 2011.
Hazleton Public Transit:
The county will contribute $121,000 to the agency, a reduction of $29,000 from 2012. The county was providing more than the state-required match.
The agency is well situated to absorb the county cut and meet emergencies because it's sitting on a $400,000 reserve, Lawton said.
The agency, which operates senior centers and provides support services to the elderly, will lose its $300,000 annual county subsidy next year. The county is not required to provide matching funds as part of the agency's $14 million budget, which primarily counts on state funding.
Drug and Alcohol:
The county subsidy will decrease from $305,850 to $175,850 in 2013, or the minimum county match required for the agency's roughly $3.9 million budget.
The agency assists clients who don't have insurance or private means to cover treatment. Social service agencies, Children and Youth and the court system also refer clients to the agency for treatment.
Children and Youth:
The agency will receive $6.03 million, or $172,828 less. It will reduce expenses in its $37.64 million budget by eliminating 17 vacant caseworker positions that were funded this year.
The county will budget a flat $11,500 per employee for health care coverage next year – a 15 percent increase – to cover rising expenses. About $10 million is budgeted for health insurance countywide.
The county pays most employee medical bills because it is self-insured, though a stop-loss insurance plan protects the county by covering claims over a certain amount. The county pays a third-party administrator to process claims and negotiate service rates with providers.
Most employees pay something toward their health care, ranging from varying flat amounts to 10 percent.
At first glance it appears the department will lose $2.8 million of its current $4.47 million allocation, or 63 percent. However, the department still has this revenue to spend. It was stripped from the county general fund because the expenses are covered by phone surcharges, not the county.
The county general fund is slated to allocate $1.6 million to the department next year, and that's the only portion of the 911 budget recognized in the county spending plan.
The domestic relations department is in a similar situation, where only the county's $1.8 million allocation appears in the 2013 budget. The budgeting procedure change makes it appear the department is cut $3 million, or $62.5 percent.
The prison budget is increasing 10 percent, from $26.9 million to $29.6 million.
About $1.4 million of the increase stems from union mandated raises, even though 18 correctional officer positions – eight filled and 10 vacant – are slated for elimination in coming weeks.
The budget will require the prison to stick to a tight overtime allotment of $400,000. The prison received $400,422 for overtime this year and spent $452,170 through the end of September.
The budget includes $438,669 for the salaries of 69 elected tax collectors.
Home rule gives council the power to stop using or reduce the pay of elected tax collectors, who receive $3.50 per bill. A decision must be made by the end of the year because tax collector seats are on the ballot in 2013.
Even if council opts to cover collection in-house or through an outside company, the county must budget payment to tax collectors in 2013 because their elected terms don't expire until the end of the year.
The budget does not grant District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis' request to fill five vacant positions in her office, and a detective position funded by an expiring federal grant also will be eliminated.
The office allocation will be $5.01 million, an 11 percent increase from this year.
The authority's county subsidy will increase from $500,000 to $572,000 because the state is mandating the county move toward a $600,000 contribution. The authority operates public buses and vans for the elderly and disabled.
Projected revenue includes $900,000 from a Tax Incremental Financing plan, or TIF, that diverted tax revenue from new development along Highland Park Boulevard and at the Arena Hub Plaza to fund improvements to Mundy Street, Highland Park Boulevard and Coal Street.
The county is entitled to a conservative estimate of at least $900,000 of the funding expected to be left after all bills are paid for the road projects, Lawton said.
Prior county commissioners had budgeted $2 million from the TIF remains in their 2012 budget, but council removed it from the amended budget at the urging of former interim county manager Tom Pribula, who said the projection was too high and wouldn't materialize until early 2013.
Luzerne County Council will hold a public budget hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the county's Emergency Management Agency building, Water Street, Wilkes-Barre.