Lengthy 2004 budget session ends in optimism

For more than five hours Thursday, county leaders pondered the proposed 2004 county budget and when the session concluded, commissioners felt there would be no need to burden the taxpayers with increases.
“I’m confident that with the cuts proposed, we can balance this budget,” said commissioner John Eichelberger.
Eichelberger said when budget talks began months ago and the initial reports came in, the budget was about $3.5 million.
Eichelberger said this is a scary number to see at first, but when it was weeded through and extraneous expenditures were denounced, those numbers dropped quickly.
Yesterday, Eichelberger said he and fellow commissioner John Ebersole both made strategic determinations as to what should be cut from the budget. He said that a number of non-mandated issues, such as library funding, funding to local historical societies and funding for Farmland Preservation could receive less county funds in 2004. He said commissioners may not be able to grant the increase requests by these groups, thus allotting the same amount as in 2003.
The proposed budget for 2004 is not too far away from being adopted.
Eichelberger said there is another budgeting meeting scheduled for Tuesday. He said a decision as to whether to pass it may come as soon as then.
Commissioner Donna Gority was not available to attend Thursday’s meeting.