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Taxes headed up in 2007 Chambersburg budget

November 15, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Real estate taxes will increase 3 mills and three officers will be added to the Police Department in the preliminary 2007 budget approved this week by the Chambersburg Borough Council.

The proposed budget called for hiring two officers in 2007, followed by one more in each of the next three years. Monday night, however, Chief Michael T. DeFrank asked for three officers in 2007 and two in each of the following three years.

"We took the officer proposed for 2008 and moved that to 2007," Councilwoman Elaine Swartz said. That might mean that no new officers will be hired in 2008, she said.

How many officers are hired in the next few years could depend on whether the Pennsylvania General Assembly approves a bill to help fund 10,000 more municipal police officers, Council President William McLaughlin said. With the legislative session nearing an end, he was not optimistic.

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"I'll wait for it to happen before I get excited," he said. "Nobody outside of the borough of Chambersburg is going to help us."

The state has hamstrung local governments' efforts to raise revenues, he said, noting an attempt by legislators to exempt anyone making less than $12,000 a year from the $52 emergency and municipal services tax.

"You'll notice there is no $12,000 exemption from the state income tax," he said. Chambersburg would lose about $300,000 if the exemption passed, he said.

Rather than the five officers the borough was proposing to add by 2010, or the nine DeFrank is requesting, McLaughlin said the number will probably be six.

The cost of a new patrolman is about $70,000, including salary, health insurance, pension and other costs, Borough Manager Eric Oyer said.

There will be tradeoffs for more officers, such as a proposed new police headquarters, Swartz said.

"As of right now, I think the consensus is we're not going to go that route," she said.

Swartz also wants the borough to conduct a personnel and facilities inventory next year. Additional police space could be created by moving or modernizing recordkeeping, and paying fewer government workers more to take on added responsibilities could save on future health insurance and pension costs, she said.

The council did eliminate from the Recreation Department budget a position for a full-time program supervisor.

Department programs are now supervised by part-time employees, Oyer said.

Even with the tax increase, the $10.46 million spending plan exceeds projected revenues by about $650,000. The shortfall - the equivalent of about 4 mills in property taxes, will be made up out of cash reserves.

The new tax rate would be 20 mills. On a property with a market value of $100,000, each mill would add about $10 to the owner's tax bill, Oyer said last month.

Final passage of the budget is set for Dec. 18.

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