Franklin County hikes tax to support library

December 21, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - There will be a real estate tax increase for most Franklin County property owners in 2008, but it won't put much of a dent in most homeowners' budgets.

The Board of County Commissioners voted Thursday to approve next year's $114.9 million budget, leaving taxes for the general fund and debt service unchanged at 18.5 mills and 3.1 mills, respectively. The board then voted to raise the tax to support the Franklin County Library System from 0.6 mills to 0.8 mills.

That raises the total tax to 21.97 mills, or $21.95 for every $1,000 of assessed value on a property. Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said that will raise the taxes on a home with a market value of $185,200 by $3.63.

The library tax, levied in 18 of the county's 22 municipalities that approved it by referendum years ago, has not been raised in his dozen years on the board, Elliott said. The 0.2-mill increase will raise close to $250,000 more for the library next year, bringing the county's contribution to about $1 million, he said.


The increase was in response to a Nov. 29 plea by Bernice Crouse, the system's executive director, to raise the tax to 1 mill. The additional revenue would be used to raise salaries and wages, increase hours of operation and improve services, Crouse said at the time.

"Half a loaf is better than none," Crouse said upon learning of the board's decision. "We will take it thankfully and use it wisely."

With the additional revenue, the system's 2008 budget will exceed $2 million, Crouse said. The system operates the Coy Free Library in Chambersburg, the Grove Family Library in Guilford Township, the Lilian Besore Library in Greencastle, satellite libraries in St. Thomas and Fort Loudon, and the county's bookmobile, she said.

The system also financially supports the autonomous Alexander Hamilton Library in Waynesboro, Pa., and its satellite branch in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

The system's libraries employ more than 60 people, and Commissioner Cheryl Plummer, a longtime member of the library board, said salaries are about 30 percent below those of librarians and staff in comparable Pennsylvania counties.

Plummer said the state has failed to follow its own formula for matching local funding to libraries, one reason that libraries are facing a financial crunch.

The money will help address that issue and extend hours of operations, Crouse said. The biggest demand for more hours is at the Grove Family Library, she said.

More books, videos and other materials also will be purchased next year because at least 12 percent of the budget has to go toward collection development, Crouse said. The system likely will not be able to update its automated and online services next year, she said.

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