Tax increase averted in Franklin budget

November 25, 1997

Tax increase averted in Franklin budget


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Franklin County Commissioners Tuesday approved a preliminary 1998 budget that holds the line on taxes despite inescapable new costs.

The new $53.2 million spending plan for 1998 keeps real estate taxes at 23 mills, or $23 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

"We agreed that we would explore every avenue other than raising taxes," said Commissioners Chairman G. Warren Elliott.

One of the county's new costs next year is bringing in fourth judge Richard Walsh, elected earlier this month, and equipping him with an office and staff.


The new position alone costs more than $160,000, Elliott said.

Spending on more county drug and alcohol counseling programs also put a strain on the budget process, but both items were absorbed without a tax increase, Elliott said.

Commissioners aren't as optimistic about the prospects for keeping the rate at 23 mills in 1999.

Increasing costs at the Franklin County Prison, the courts and the drug and alcohol programs are "looming on the horizon," Elliott said.

Elimination of the personal property tax, permitted under tax reform laws, has also put a strain on the county's budget, he said.

Commissioners commended the county's department heads at a meeting Tuesday afternoon for presenting reasonable budgets and keeping spending down.

Some departments sacrificed hiring more people in exchange for technological improvements and most will make do without any budget increases.

Franklin County's 660 employees should be compensated with a 4 percent raise in 1998 if the preliminary budget is approved. The budget also includes improvements and additions to employee benefits, which Elliott charted out during a presentation before county department heads.

The reimbursement rate for employees' mileage will increase from 23 cents per mile to 28 cents. The on-call rate, which hasn't changed for 10 years, will go to a flat rate of $16 a day during normal work days and $24-a-day on nonwork days.

Employees also will be eligible for a new deferred compensation plan, a retirement plan similar to a 401K program in the private sector, and the county will pay for support staff training on county time.

The budget also makes room for technological upgrades within county offices, including a new financial system, new telephone system, access to electronic mail and computer links among all county offices.

"We had a philosophy in where we were headed with this budget. First and foremost was to invest in our employees, second is technology ... next is communication," Elliott said.

The only new request from an outside agency considered in next year's budget is from the Franklin County fire chiefs, who are seeking funds for a training center. The total amount needed hasn't been determined yet.

The preliminary budget will be available for review and comment at the commissioners' office, municipal and borough buildings, and public libraries throughout the county before adoption by the commissioners on Dec. 30.

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