By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — The Northumberland County commissioners meet today, and if they don’t pass the $72 million budget for 2014, the county will experience something that hasn’t happened for more than 30 years: It will shut down.
At this point, the odds favor a shutdown because Commissioners Vinny Clausi and Steve Bridy have been at war with Commissioner Rick Shoch for about two years, making the possibility of a quick agreement unlikely. The meeting is set for 1 p.m. at the county administration building.
Clausi is out of the county on business. It was not clear Monday whether he would try to attend the meeting by phone.
If the budget were passed today, there would be plenty of time for a final vote on the spending plan at the commissioners’ Dec. 27 meeting. The budget, once approved, must be advertised and available to the public for 20 days before final adoption.
The Dec. 11 meeting would push commissioners past the required 20 days of advertising and force a vote in the early part of January.
In 2012, Clausi and Shoch battled over passing of the 2013 budget, but Clausi and Bridy adopted the spending plan by 2-1 vote. Shoch was the dissenter.
Clausi has decided that this year would be different. Although he and Bridy agree on the plan put together by county budget director Jeff McClintock, Clausi told Shoch on Nov. 7 to either approve the budget, too, or draw up his own budget proposal.
“If you vote no, then so will I,” Clausi told Shoch. “I will stick with you. If you want to shut the county down, then so be it.”
The first reading of the budget then failed, with Bridy providing the only “yes” vote.
Shoch said he opposes the 2014 budget because he thinks the county’s 911 system upgrade will be costly for taxpayers and that the county made a bad deal in its lease on the human services complex off North Second Street in Sunbury.
In turn, Clausi held a press conference in July and praised county leaders for an approximately $1.8 million in savings on the lease for that complex, with millions more in savings to come, he said.
In any case, time is running out for an adoption, McClintock said on Monday.
“The last day is coming,” he said. “It’s getting close.”
Asked what a shutdown would mean, McClintock said: “My understanding is no checks will be issued. There hasn’t been anything like this during my five years here so I am not really sure, but as I understand no one will be paid.”
Some county employees will be required to work because of courthouse issues and children and youth cases, but other employees will not.