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Franklin County to borrow money to pay for social services

August 27, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Because they fear the state might not pass its 2009-10 budget for several more weeks, the Franklin County (Pa.) Commissioners on Thursday asked staff members to start the paperwork needed to borrow $10 million to $15 million.

"Maybe we'll never need it, and I hope not," Commissioners Chairman Bob Thomas said.

The loan would be in the form of a "tax and revenue anticipation note" designed to buy time until Pennsylvania leaders adopt a budget, which was due to be passed by June 30.

The county's fiscal director said the loan would be tax-free and come with little interest or fees.

"We cannot carry it over to our new fiscal year. It has to be paid off by Dec. 31," Fiscal Director Teresa Beckner said.

The commissioners agreed to consider borrowing as part of a bigger plan to continue paying for human services that haven't received state payments due to the budget impasse. Some checks arrived this week, bringing the total amount owed to approximately $5.9 million.

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Meanwhile, money continues to be paid out for things like drug and alcohol rehabilitation, mental health and retardation services, senior citizens assistance and transportation of disabled residents to their jobs.

The remainder of the commissioners' plan involves trying to borrow from the a third-party agency, asking providers for increased efficiencies, delaying provider payments starting Oct. 15 and possibly scaling back offerings starting in late October.

"There's a responsibility here to ensure a safe community and a quality of life," Thomas said.

Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski reiterated his expectation that the Pennsylvania General Assembly will pass a budget before the plan's provisions start.

"I think other counties will be screaming long before we will," he said, adding that Franklin County is in a better financial position than others.

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell signed a stopgap budget measure to resume pay for state workers and certain government operations.

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