An independent news publication of
United Way of Lancaster County


Lancaster County commissioners adopt 2022 budget

Lancaster County Government Center, 150 N. Queen St. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

Lancaster County Government Center, 150 N. Queen St. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)
Lancaster County Government Center, 150 N. Queen St. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

The Lancaster County commissioners passed the county's 2022 budget by a 2-1 vote on Wednesday, with Republicans Josh Parsons and Ray D'Agostino voting for the package and Democrat Craig Lehman voting against it.

The budget maintains the county property tax rate at 2.911 mills. The county last implemented a tax hike in 2012 for 2013. The only adjustment since then took effect in 2018, a revenue-neutral decrease from 3.735 mills to 2.911 mills to account for the countywide property value reassessment.

One mill equals $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

In remarks before the vote, Parsons and D'Agostino reiterated their views that the budget is conservative, sound and structurally balanced.

They noted that 2022's budget represents less than a 2% increase over 2021's, well below the rate of inflation. It includes no layoffs and provides for performance-based raises of 4.25% to 5.25% as well as substantial hikes in starting salaries.

Parsons noted the 2.911 mill tax rate is the third lowest in Pennsylvania and the lowest among large counties. The county, he said, has provided "prudent, frugal, responsible, efficient and effective government," paying down debt, growing its fund balance, nearing completion of its bridge improvement plan, continuing to preserve farmland, and taking steps toward building a new prison.

Lehman's "no" vote is the first he has cast on a budget since he took office in 2008. He objects to two accounting changes in the 2022 budget: It does not fund all listed staff positions, instead relying on a five-year average of actual head counts; and it assumes revenue collections of 97.5% rather than 97%, a change also based on past-year trends.

Lehman previously said that under previous years' budget methodology, the 2022 budget would show a $3.4 million deficit. Add in wage increases approved since then, and the figure rises to $5.1 million, he said.

"This budget is not structurally balanced," he said.

Parsons said the county intentionally overfunded its personnel budget in past years as a way to rebuild its fund balance, but now that the fund balance is adequate, "it's appropriate to switch to a more accurate budgeting model." For county departments, the change will likely be unnoticeable, he said.

D'Agostino concurred, as did outgoing county Controller Brian Hurter. The county can afford its current salary commitments, he said, and there's no reason it couldn't consider additional targeted raises next year if they're brought before the Salary Board and deemed appropriate.

Unlike Lancaster city, Lancaster County is not making use of American Rescue Plan Act funds to augment revenues. The county is awaiting final federal guidance on using ARPA, and D'Agostino, for one, has said he opposes using one-time revenue for recurring expenses.

Full information on Lancaster County's 2022 budget is available on the county's website.