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Proposed budget includes no tax hike

November 05, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Chambersburg Borough officials say they hope to hold the line on real estate taxes for the 14th straight year.

The proposed 2003 budget unveiled earlier this month keeps the millage rate at 12.2 mills, Borough Manager Eric Oyer said. One mill equals $1 of tax for each $1,000 of assessed real estate value.

The Borough Council is scheduled to discuss and approve the preliminary budget at its Nov. 12 meeting, with final adoption Dec. 17.

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The net budget is $57,373,585 and includes a 3 percent pay increase for all borough personnel, except firefighters and police officers, who are in arbitration with the borough.

Oyer said the 2003 budget was particularly difficult to prepare because of a 12 percent increase in health insurance costs over the next two years and premium increases in property and liability insurance that range from 20 percent to 30 percent.

He said the borough has been able to avoid tax increases by juggling transfers from funds to offset additional expenditures, including decreasing the cash balance.

"The position of council has been they recognize there will be a day they have to raise real estate taxes. But they want staff to do all they can do to delay it as long as possible," Oyer said.

The budget allows for using nearly $1 million from the cash balance to make ends meet, he said.

The biggest chunk of the budget goes to the police department, accounting for more than 35 percent of the General Fund appropriations. The proposed budget includes funding for another police officer at no additional cost.

Oyer said the hope is for the position to pay for itself by offsetting overtime pay.

Currently the department puts in $220,000 in overtime a year, with $70,000 of that reimbursed.

The budget also allows for a new fire code inspection officer.

Last year, the budget included three firefighters and a code inspection officer, contingent on the final arbitration settlement. There has not yet been an agreement.

"We're going ahead with the fire code official. It's not contingent on arbitration in order to move along and address the needs of the program," Oyer said.

This year's budget also calls for the continuation of an ambitious public works program outlined last year.

Oyer said depending on the future sale of the borough-owned airport and lower interest rates in the self insurance fund - both ways the borough planned on paying for the program - the council will have to re-evaluate the program in the next six months.

He said all 2003 projects, totaling $405,000, would be completed.

They include work to overlay Coldbrook Avenue, Hood Street, Grandview Avenue, Long Lane and Paper Mill Road, as well as stormwater drainage upgrades to Brandon Drive and Stanley Avenue.

The proposed budget also allows for continuing projects like the Chambersburg Rail Trail and Chambers Fort Park as well as a "makeover" of Memorial Square.

The $17,000 budgeted for the project will cover the costs of landscaping and maintenance. The project was budgeted in 2002, but due to drought conditions it has been postponed, Oyer said.

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