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Franklin Co. seeks budget cuts

February 09, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The Franklin County Commissioners have asked row officers and other department heads to cut 8 percent from their 2009 budgets, sources confirmed Monday.

"It's a rough economy right now. We know local companies and local taxpayers are making decisions like this at home," Commissioner David Keller said.

Commissioner Bob Thomas referred to "hard decisions" and said further information about the cuts would be released at today's commissioners meeting.

For Warden John Wetzel, an 8 percent reduction in his jail budget will equal about $750,000. He and other supervisors learned of the request through a memo distributed Friday.

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"We're going through the process. We kind of reopened our budget and are having some meetings with our departments," Wetzel said.

The warden's first course of action has been to gather vendor contracts for further review. Talks with those vendors might reveal ways to save more money, he said.

Wetzel, whose staff supervises about 300 inmates daily, promised that nothing he proposes will negatively impact public safety.

"There's some costs we just can't get away from," he said.

County Treasurer Dave Secor identified a new online program for purchasing dog licenses as a way to cut $10,000 from his budget. When coupled with eliminating $1,000 budgeted for temporary data entry employment opportunities, that should satisfy the commissioners' request, according to Secor.

The treasurer said his budget was already "bare bones," but the two cuts are coming from new, proposed line items.

"Historically, budgets are made with a little wiggle room to give you some comfort, but I don't believe in that," he said.

Secor also talked initially with the commissioners about ways to save money in other departments. Sometimes a person outside a department can provide a fresh perspective and better identify a deficiency, he said.

"They want everybody to make an effort," Secor said.

The commissioners adopted this year's $115.2 million budget on Dec. 11, 2008. Included was a 3.5-mill tax increase for property owners.

Keller said efforts throughout the year to stay within the approved budget are standard operating procedure.

"The county historically has been a really lean operation. ... Overall, there's a sense that we'll be able to accomplish our goals," he said.

Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski did not return a call seeking comment Monday. The board meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday in its offices on Memorial Square in Chambersburg.

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