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Franklin, Fulton counties finalize '99 budgets

December 31, 1998

911 serviceBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Property owners in Franklin and Fulton counties will not face real estate tax increases next year, although improvements in computer systems and services are planned for both counties in 1999.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners gave final approval Tuesday to a $56.3 million spending plan that holds taxes at 23 mills, or $23 for every $1,000 of assessed value on a property.

Fulton County's commissioners approved a $3.8 million spending plan that holds real estate taxes at 20 mills, according to Commissioner Daniel Swain. With about 13,000 residents, Fulton County has about one-tenth the population of Franklin County.

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In Franklin County, real estate taxes are expected to generate about $8.8 million, or 16 percent of the total budget. The balance is primarily from state and federal subsidies, and charges and fees for services.

Local taxes in Fulton County will generate about $1.6 million, a much higher percentage of its budget, Chief Clerk Richard Wible said.

The county does not have a prison or nursing home, two major components in Franklin County's budget.

Franklin County's approximately 700 full- and part-time employees will receive average wage and salary increases of 3 percent next year, according to Commissioner Cheryl Plummer.

In Fulton County, the approximately 60 full- and part-time employees will get increases of 5 percent, or 50 cents an hour for those making less than $10 an hour, Swain said.

"We might not always be able to do it, but our county's been doing pretty well economically with the success of JLG (Industries) and other industries," Swain said of the pay hike.

Franklin County has plans to update computer systems and software in 1999, according to Plummer. The county recently purchased a $195,000 software package for client management in the human services agencies.

County Fiscal Director Jerry Frey said the software will allow the county to "take care of people in a kind of holistic approach."

Many people get assistance from more than one agency and the software will enable the agencies to better share information and track clients.

Plummer said it will help the county evaluate the effectiveness of programs. "Statistics are easy, outcomes are difficult," she said.

The county is negotiating with another firm to provide personnel, purchasing and financial management software.

Both systems are expected to be online by July 1.

Also in 1999, new computer systems are planned for the Clerk of Courts, Register and Recorder, Sheriff and Prothonotary's offices, Plummer said.

Many of the improvements are not listed in the new budget, according to Plummer.

A 1997 bond issue is financing much of the computerization and new offices for the Probation Department. Some costs will be recouped through state and federal subsidies and fees.

One area over which Franklin County has little cost control is crime. From the time a person is arrested until he is released from jail, county taxpayers are footing the bill, Commissioner Bob Thomas said.

"Sixty-six cents out of every dollar in local real estate taxes is used for the corrections system or the judicial system," Frey said.

In Fulton County, Wible said, about $40,500 is budgeted for new computers for the Tax Claims Office and about $36,000 for computers in the Tax Assessment Office.

Swain noted a countywide 911 system will be up and running this spring.

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