New executive, new budget
In back-to-back press events Aug. 28 Lehigh County officials unveiled the county's new executive and the proposed 2013 county budget.
President Judge Carol McGinley administered the oath of office to 75-year-old William Hansell, a former city council member and business administrator with decades of experience in government and management.
Hansell replaces Don Cunningham, who left the position after six years to become executive director of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.
Hansell's remarks stressed bipartisan decision-making to encourage accomplishment.
"Divided government can work with civility, with respect and with understanding," he said. "I believe we can seek consensus, accept compromise and disagree without being disagreeable. I believe that's a vision – I hold out my hope we can make that happen.
"We are blessed in this community to have incredibly talented and gifted people who do our work for us," Hansell said, "and a difficult job it is."
Hansell described his 16-month tenure as consisting of three goals: To make the best use of employee talents, introduce a system of performance measurement and maintain priority-based budgeting.
Hansell later described the proposed 2013 budget set at $365 million. It is a decrease of $24 million from last year and includes a small one-time expiring tax credit – about $44 for county residents – which will total $6.5 million. He also said the budget will allow for 2 or 3 percent salary increases for the nearly 2,060 county employees.
Hansell expects to add two positions, an assistant district attorney and an operations manager, but 21 positions will be cut, mostly through attrition.
The county is 84 percent funded, which is better than some counties which are as low as in the 50-percent range, "but there's still away to go," Hansell explained.
Commissioner Percy Dougherty said the proposed budget will be discussed openly by commissioners and individual county offices at a series of hearings Sept. 17-19.
"You got it," Dougherty said, "three nights in a row. So it's going to keep us busy."