Franklin County budget contains tax hike

January 02, 1997


Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County Commissioners ratified a budget and property tax increase Tuesday that will cost the average homeowner $30 a year.

In their 1997 spending plan, the Franklin County Commissioners raised the tax rate from 18 mills to 23 mills. A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

The increase will appear on tax bills sent out this spring.

"Certainly there are people, and we're three of them, who aren't happy about a tax increase," said G. Warren Elliott, the commissioners' chairman.


Still, most people told the commissioners they understand the need, Elliott said.

Franklin County has one of the lowest tax rates in the state and many other counties also hiked taxes this year, commissioners said.

The budget increases spending by $1.7 million, or 13 percent, for general government services like administration, courts and the Franklin County Prison.

Commissioners blamed most of the increase on the rising cost of dealing with troubled youth.

The county's department of Children and Youth Services is expected to grow by $1.1 million next year, from $3.9 million to $5 million, the budget shows.

That is one of a number of departments in the budget that the county commissioners have little control over.

However, the commissioners said they'll try some innovative things in 1997 to cut costs.

"We're going to tackle the cost of crime aggressively," Elliott said. "We're not going to spend one more penny than we have to. We will be efficient."

The county hopes to attack the problem of juvenile crime and delinquency by hiring someone to develop youth programs, said Commissioner Cheryl S. Plummer.

When juvenile offenders are sentenced, the county must foot the bill. Some programs cost $325 a day per individual.

Increases are also proposed in three other areas of county government - planning, farmland preservation and reuse of Letterkenny Army Depot.

The $36,000 increase in farmland preservation funds will be used to leverage state and federal grants to purchase development rights of farms.

The county also needs to match federal grants going toward the redevelopment of 1,500 acres at the downsizing Letterkenny Army Depot.

Another issue that had a profound impact on the 1997 budget was the repeal last year of the county's personal property tax.

Even with the tax increase, county government will be financially strapped, said county Fiscal Director Jerry Frey.

The county plans to spend about $750,000 in cash reserves to balance the budget, he said.

Reserves will still be adequate. There's enough money to keep the county going for 85 days, he said.

County commissioners have been working on the budget for months with finance officers and department heads.

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