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Franklin County tax rate to stay the same

January 02, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG - The Franklin County Board of Commissioners ended 2002 with little fanfare Tuesday, unanimously approving a lean 2003 county budget that does not include any change in the tax rate.

"Happy New Year, Franklin County. Hopefully, people will be glad about this," Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said.

The $81 million budget is a 5.5 percent increase over last year's budget, but it leaves the millage rate at 14.75.

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.

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"People have talked to me and told me they are glad there is not going to be a tax increase while many municipalities across the state and country are facing one," Elliott said.

The budget the commissioners adopted Tuesday had no changes from the preliminary one approved earlier in the month.

Although the commissioners faced requests for 26 new positions, they were only able to include eight, primarily in the area of public safety.

The approved positions include four additional corrections officers at the Franklin County Prison, an operations and training officer for the Department of Emergency Services, another clerk in the Clerk of Courts office, a security coordinator and a records management position that will assist all offices as needed.

The budget also includes expenditures from a recent bond issue for a fourth courtroom, upgrades to the prison boilers and hot water system, electronic security measures for the courthouse and a new phone system to replace the 25-year-old system in the courthouse.

"Our goal each and every year is to meet the needs of our citizens in a fiscally sound matter, and I think we've done so with this budget," Elliott said.

He commended the county administration for lowering the cost of running the county from 5 cents per tax dollar last year to only 3 cents per dollar next year.

Those savings offset some new expenses, he said.

Many increases come in the emergency services area, where the call volume to the 911 center continues to rise, but there is no additional funding, Commissioner Robert Thomas said.

"The use of cellular phones, which are not assessed the $1.24 per line that land lines pay, has flattened 911 revenues as the costs to support the sophisticated technology have increased," he said.

The telephone surcharge of $1.24 a 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.

The budget also included ongoing support for county-related agencies and initiatives such as the Farmland Preservation Program, the Franklin County Area Development Corporation, the Franklin County Drug Task Force and the South Central Community Action Program, which runs the homeless shelter.

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