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Franklin County budget holds line on tax rates

One Franklin County Commissioner credited a growing economy and prudent

One Franklin County Commissioner credited a growing economy and prudent

December 11, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

By STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Franklin County Board of Commissioners Tuesday approved a preliminary 2003 budget that leaves taxes at their current level.

"It's a lean budget, but one that allows us to meet our commitment for safety and our employees," Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said.

Elliott credited a growing economy and prudent planning for holding the line on taxes.

"All elected officials and department heads have done a good job at being as efficient and thoughtful in their requests as possible," he said. "The days of asking for pie in the sky are thankfully over."

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The proposed $81 million budget represents a $5 million increase over last year's, with the largest jump in expenses going toward human services.

The budget leaves taxes at 14.75 mills in 2003. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property. Residents who own an $80,000 home will continue to pay about $215 a year in county taxes.

Elliott said crime, court and corrections operations continue to eat up the biggest chunk of the budget, including the addition of four more corrections officers at the Franklin County Prison by the end of 2003.

About 74 cents of every tax dollar are spent in that category, he said.

The budget allows for a 10 percent increase in prison costs, about $450,000, to cover the cost of the growing average daily inmate population of about 350.

In addition to the prison, county tax dollars pay the salaries of the district attorney, the sheriff and other offices as well as support 911 emergency services.

The telephone surcharge of $1.24 per month per line no longer covers the cost of operations and the county increased its support by $150,000 this year, bringing the total amount to $264,000, according to the budget summary.

But the budget represents some good news as well.

"We are fortunate to have some growth. The economy isn't stagnant - if it was we'd be looking at a different budget," Elliott said.

Proceeds from the 2002 bond issue will fund about $3.7 million in capital projects, including the addition of a fourth courtroom in the Franklin County Courthouse, acquisition of property for county purposes and building improvements.

The proposed budget also includes four other new positions that will bring the total number of county employees closer to 900.

The new jobs include an emergency management training officer, a security coordinator to manage county security, an additional clerk in the Clerk of Courts office and a records management clerk that several offices will share.

The commissioners raised taxes last year to cover an increase in crime-related costs and a new emphasis on security in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States.

The commissioners will vote on the final budget later this month.

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