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Chambersburg board predicts no property tax hike

December 03, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Halfway through hearing budget requests for 1999, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners predicted there will be no real estate tax increase for the coming year.

"We anticipate we can hold the line," Commissioner Cheryl Plummer said Wednesday after the board heard 13 department budget requests.

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Those requests included two of the largest, the Falling Spring Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and the county prison.

As of Wednesday the commissioners had heard 18 budget requests with another 18 scheduled for today. Preliminary approval of the budget is scheduled for next Tuesday.

"The requests, we feel, have been thoughtful and pretty realistic," Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said. He predicted the department requests will total between $500,000 and $750,000 above current spending levels.

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Elliott said most of the requests for increased funding have been related to technology rather than more personnel. "Costs related to technology aren't necessarily recurring," he said.

Eight of the departments submitting requests Wednesday made technology requests, with just three asking for more personnel, according to Elliott.

The nursing and rehabilitation center is requesting $7.36 million next year, down from $7.87 million this year, said Fiscal Department Director Jerry Frey. Elliott said the lower budget is based in part on a lower projected daily census.

In 1998, the nursing center predicted a daily census of 168 patients, but Elliott said the actual average was 159. Most of the revenues for the center come from medical assistance payments, Medicare and private patient fees.

The center is expected to operate slightly in the black this year. It was budgeted to receive $92,000 this year, but "It won't require any county money to support it in 1998," Frey said.

Next year the center budget asks for $73,000 in state subsidies.

In 1996, the center, then called the Franklin County Nursing Home, received $1.3 million in county subsidies. That dropped to about $350,000 in 1997.

The prison is asking for about $134,000 more in 1999 with a request of more than $3.5 million. That included adding positions for a full-time nurse, a corrections counselor and a clerk.

The commissioners said the prison's "pay to stay" programs, under which work release and other prisoners are charged for room and board, contributed about $300,000 to prison operations this year.

Requests for the courts and district justice offices totaled almost $1.49 million, compared to $1.42 million this year. Much of the increase is for technology and a new office for District Justice John P. Weyman at the new Pleasant Hall (Pa.) fire hall.

Real Estate taxes would remain at 23 mills if the commissioners are correct in their prediction. That includes half a mill for debt service.

There is another mill in taxes for municipalities that are part of the Franklin County Library system.

One mill in taxes represents $1 for every $1,000 in assessed value on a property.

The county's 1998 budget is $53.2 million, including a general fund of approximately $14 million.

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