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Chambersburg borough budget gives owners a break

November 01, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A preliminary 2006 budget totaling almost $60 million was approved unanimously Monday by the Chambersburg Borough Council, although one resident asked the council to consider adding additional police officers.

"The demographics of the borough are changing dramatically," with more people moving in from major metropolitan areas, said Michael Boryan, who serves on the borough's Planning and Zoning Commission. Boryan said that includes members of the Crips and Bloods gangs "and their activity is not about improving the community."

"I happen to believe there is no price tag on safety, security and welfare," Boryan said, adding he would be willing to pay higher taxes for more patrol officers. Plans by developers to build hundreds of houses and large commercial developments will also mean the police have more areas to patrol, he said.

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Police Chief Michael T. DeFrank has requested the borough add three positions to the department in 2006, but those were not included in the budget recommendation Borough Manager Eric Oyer unveiled last week. Oyer told the council then that any future recommendations for new personnel will be accompanied by recommendations to increase taxes.

The proposed budget includes a $10.4 million general fund in addition to budgets for the electric, water, sewer, gas and sanitation departments and other functions. The largest expenditure in the general fund is about $3.6 million for the police department.

The combined expenditures for the fire, ambulance and fire code departments ranks second at more than $2.5 million, which includes an additional three firefighter positions, according to the budget.

Oyer wrote in the budget summary that he would not recommend the new positions "if they were not part of a defined strategy for change to meet certain public safety needs."

Councilwoman Ruth Harbaugh said she also favors additional police officers and asked the council to review personnel needs before a final vote is taken on the budget Dec. 12.

An entry-level firefighter position will cost the borough about $61,000 next year, while the cost of a new police officer would be about $63,000, according to budget figures.

"Over the years, we've had people come in and say they were from this group or that," said Councilman Glenn Manns when asked about the presence of gangs in Chambersburg. A retired borough police sergeant, Manns said it is often difficult to establish if someone is actually a member of a gang, or just claiming to be affiliated.

Council President William McLaughlin said the percentage of the general fund spent on personnel will be approximately 60 percent next year, but will rise to about 70 percent after that because spending on public works will decrease in the future when the money realized from the sale of the municipal airport is spent.

While the budget includes no increase in real estate taxes from the current 17 mills, the borough will use more than $700,000 from its cash reserves to balance the spending package, according to the budget summary.

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