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Franklin County Commissioners approve 2007 budget

November 30, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. ? The Franklin County Commissioners on Thursday voted final approval of a 2007 budget of $127.5 million that holds the line on real estate taxes at 21.75 mills.

Exclusive of other municipal or school district property taxes, the county will continue to have the lowest taxes in the region, County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said.

The commissioners handed out a chart citing statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development estimating the taxes on a property with a market value of $100,000. Franklin County property owners would pay $226 in taxes to the county, compared to $383 in neighboring Fulton County, while taxes on a similar home in Dauphin County would be $544, according to the chart.

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

The budget is a 2.3 percent increase over the 2006 spending package of $124.6 million.

The commissioners said one reason the county was able to avoid a tax increase for the first time in four years was growth in the tax base from commercial and residential construction.

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The tax base grew by nearly 4 percent in 2006, county Fiscal Director Teresa L. Beckner said. Real estate tax growth has exceeded 3 percent each year since 2002, and should again top 3 percent in 2007, she said.

Federal subsidies to the county are expected to decline from $14.6 million to approximately $12 million in 2007, as money for some programs now will be channeled through the state. The county's state subsidies are projected to increase from $21.7 million to $25.5 million, according to the budget.

Though much of the county budget is funded by state and federal dollars, Commissioner Bob Thomas said counties are taking on and paying for more programs as a result of unfunded mandates passed down from Washington and Harrisburg.

Among other funding sources are $29 million in charges for services and $4.3 million in interest income, up from $3.1 million this year, according to the budget.

Beckner said 17 new positions are funded in the budget, mostly in courts and corrections, including six positions at the prison and three each in the District Attorney's and Public Defender's offices.

Human Resources Director John Aguirre said the county employs about 950 people, 750 of them full time. The budget includes a 3 percent increase in wages and salaries in 2007, Elliott said.

On the expenditure side, general government services will decline by almost $1 million to $10.8 million. Beckner said that is due in part to when state and federal grants are received by the county.

Last year, for example, she said the county received a one-time $800,000 grant through the Help America Vote Act.

The human services budget, for programs such as Mental Health and Mental Retardation and Drug and Alcohol, is budgeted for an increase of about $5 million to $52.5 million.

This year's major construction project, a $30 million prison, is expected to be completed in the spring, Franklin County Prison Warden John Wetzel said. County Administrator John Hart said $2.5 million has been put in the budget for an agricultural services building.

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