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Lebanon County surprises with no tax hike

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To the surprise of even county officials, the proposed 2014 Lebanon County budget doesn't include a tax increase.

But it also doesn't include any resolution to the Cedar Haven Nursing Home debate, either.

The Lebanon County Board of Commissioners introduced a preliminary budget last week that they had warned for the last two months would include about a 5 percent tax increase. But because of a last-minute cash infusion, the commissioners held the line on taxes.

The county upped its revenue line in its Adult Probation Department by $500,000 thanks to some new reimbursement figures, closing the deficit gap for 2014 enough that it decided to further dip into its reserves to avoid a tax hike, according to Jamie Wolgemuth, Lebanon County's chief clerk.

Originally, Wolgemuth said commissioners favored a 2 percent tax increase to raise about $1 million in revenue and using about $1.5 million in reserves to close a deficit gap. But with the new cash, the proposed budget now drops the tax increase and uses about $1.9 million in reserve funds. The county would be left with about $1.1 million in reserves if this version of the budget passes.

The 2014 budget contains no decision on Cedar Haven, the much-talked-about nursing home in Lebanon run by the county. The county has lost money running the facility for years, commissioners have said, and the commissioners have entertained the thought of selling it both to make money in the sale and to get out from under its operation.

Any sale won't be happening this year, it appears. The commissioners also last week approved a $5,000 study to have an outside agency examine the finances of the nursing home and its future prospects, according to Wolgemuth. The report is scheduled to be presented in 30 days, he said, after the 2014 budget deadline.

The budget is scheduled to be on the agenda for a Dec. 26 commissioners meeting.

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