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Franklin spending, operations study set

March 12, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The Franklin County (Pa.) Commissioners announced Thursday they've formed a task force to evaluate spending and operations, but the results aren't expected for 18 to 24 months.

As an immediate step, the commissioners will host budget hearings next week with department heads and elected officials to hear how the managers propose cutting 8 percent from their budgets.

The commissioners on Thursday refused to speculate about layoffs or furloughs of their 950 employees, saying they want to first hear from the managers.

Commissioners Chairman Bob Thomas said "the state of Franklin County government is good," but added that the commissioners worry about reduced funding from the state. The board is trying to soften the impact from that, he said.

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"We'll continue to fight for Franklin County's fair share of state and federal funding," said Commissioner David Keller, who will lead the task force charged with streamlining government functions.

The county's share of federal stimulus money remains unknown, Thomas said.

"The stimulus package is not a permanent thing," Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski said.

Thomas emphasized the county has adequate reserve funds, a good bond rating and property taxes in the lowest 20 percent of the state. The commissioners have no immediate plans to borrow money, he said.

Commissioners said the task force will look at document imaging and better ways to share information among departments, while committing to tools and training to make work more efficient.

Budgetary troubles became apparent in the fourth quarter of 2008 and compounded in early 2009, Thomas said. One significant hit was a changed payment system for retirees' health care, he 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.

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