Warren County is seeing a dramatic change in its financial footing as compared to last year.
At the Warren County Commissioners' meeting Wednesday morning, Fiscal Director Toby Rohlin reported the county has $1,148,000 cash on hand.
The figure is a marked improvement from the $854,000 the county had at this time last year, showing an approximately $300,000 increase. But it doesn't tell the whole story.
The $854,000 cash on hand figure for last February is what remained at that point of a $1 million draw-down in funds the county had to take to cover costs. This year's $1,148,000 figure was reached with no draw-down.
"We're actually well over a million higher than we were a year ago," Rohlin said. "There are two major factors that play into this... Healthcare costs, by the end of the year, we were down about $535,000. The other thing, of course, is the tax money was greater at the end of the year because of the increase in taxes. So that accounts for about $600,000. Between the two of those, that's well over a million."
Without the draw-down of funds, at this time last year the county would have been at a cash-on-hand figure of minus $145,000, meaning the actual difference between its fiscal standing from last February to now shows an approximately $1.3 million increase in funds.
Commissioner John Bortz asked, "We were minus $145,000?"
"Well, a comparable figure would be minus," Rohlin explained, "but we had $855,000 a year ago today. We had just taken a $1 million draw... to get 854. So you subtract to get comparable figures. (County Treasurer) Dennis (Munksgard) has not needed to draw yet... I would be surprised if you're gonna draw... This year's going to be much easier than it has in prior years cash-wise."
"We're approximately $1.3 million ahead of the game," Bortz reiterated.
"Compared to where we were a year ago," Rohlin replied. "So, in hindsight, we probably could have gotten away without the tax increase."
Commissioner John Eggleston cautioned the healthcare cost reduction wasn't something the county could rely on, saying, "If we could have counted on it as being 500-odd-some-thousand dollars under budget for healthcare."
"Well the $500,000 turn-around on the healthcare costs, that could turn around and bite you," Rohlin agreed.
"We're gonna meet with our healthcare guy tomorrow afternoon, so stay tuned," Bortz said. "We like to think that we have some healthy employees here, but with us being self-funded, we're only a couple of illnesses away from being in a different situation. Now we have some catastrophic insurance to avoid that, but even still, it is what it is."
"Speaking for myself, personally, I'm going to enjoy the ability to relax a little bit for, at least, the conceivable future," Eggleston noted.
Bortz agreed, saying, "We can at least take a deep breath and pause right now."
"If thing turn around, we'll have to deal with it," Eggleston said of the possibility of costs increasing.
Bortz tempered optimism by recalling the last time the county saw significantly under-budget healthcare costs.
"The last time we were running into positive numbers on healthcare... was a couple, three years ago," he said. "When they were running that administrative pick-up on healthcare."
In that case, the county was eventually billed for the cost differences.
"They're doing the same right now," Rohlin noted. "They're holding back claims information. They're not billing us... We don't want to have a re-run. We weren't happy... getting billed a $250,000 catch-up... They said they were not going to do it again... Highmark was here... He assured us, 'We won't pull that trick on you again.' but it looks a little bit fishy."
Rohlin also reported monthly bills for approval of $250,028, including $58,700 in bills for the Warren County Jail and $191,300 for county operations.
Large expenditures at the jail included $6,300 for pharmaceuticals, $10,700 for services from Seneca Medical, $7,800 for food from Maplevale Farms, $5,800 for food from U.S. Foods, $4,300 for water and $4,100 for electric.
Large county expenditures included $66,900 for Forest-Warren Human Services' February operational allotment, $13,500 for paving, $5,800 for engineering service, $9,400 for dues to the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, $6,800 to Northwest Services, $4,000 for cleaning, $7,400 to Verizon and $4,000 to Pyramid Healthcare for detox services provided to adult probation.