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Franklin County Board of Commissioners OK 2002 budget

December 28, 2001

Franklin County Board of Commissioners OK 2002 budget



By STACEY DANZUSO
chbbureau@innernet.net


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Franklin County Board of Commissioners approved the county's 2002 budget, which has an increased emphasis on security.

"The driving factors of the budget are Sept. 11, overcrowding in the prison and the continued escalation of drug use and crime in the county," G. Warren Elliott, chairman of the Board of Commissioners said.

He pointed out Thursday the only new or upgraded positions the budget includes are at the Franklin County Prison, the Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney's Office and Emergency Management Services.

"That only further underscores the impact of security planning in this year's budget," Elliott said.

New security measures include the creation of an Incident Support Team and a decontamination unit in the Emergency Management office, as well as metal detectors and an X-ray machine.

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"Our intent isn't to overreact but to be prepared," Elliott said.

In addition to security measures driven by Sept. 11, the county has to cope with a rising number of adult criminal cases, expected to top 2,000 next year, and a prison population that has increased by 50 percent over the last four years.

Addressing these issues comes at the cost of about $54 more a year in property taxes for the average resident.

A 3.85 mill increase will bring the county rate to 14.75 mill, which balances out to a $4.50 increase per month for residents who own an $80,000 home, Elliott said.

This is the second tax increase in six years, and Elliott said he believes the county will still retain its status of having the lowest tax rate in the state's 67 counties.

The $76 million 2002 budget keeps most department funding at 2001 levels and adds nine positons at the county prison, three Sheriff's deputies, an operations officer in the county 911 center and a third narcotics officer for the Franklin County Drug Task Force.

Elliott said that while other counties are reducing their workforces to balance their budgets, Franklin County is not facing that situation and will continue to offer the same level of services despite a huge jump in insurance costs and the security measures.

"The county is fortunate to have a vibrant economy," Elliott said. "I drive all over the state of Pennsylvania and other places have a very stagnant situation."

He expects more announcements on workforce growth in the county and job diversification in the coming months.

The biggest obstacle facing the county in 2002 is space, including adding a formal fourth courtroom and coming up with a solution for prison overcrowding.

Elliott also noted that a downturn in state revenues that will put it at a $200 million deficit by the end of its fiscal year in June will filter down to the county level.

"Our experience in the past is when federal and state governments operate at deficit levels, it has an impact on counties," he said.

Copies of the 2002 budget are available for review at the Franklin County Commissioners office on the second floor of the Franklin County Courthouse.

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