County taxes to rise slightly

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

The Franklin County Commissioners approved the county’s preliminary 2010 budget on Friday, raising taxes 0.5 mills. The increase will be used for the county's yearly obligation of existing bonds and ensure its "AA" credit rating. The new millage rate will be 25.95 and will be adopted at the Dec. 31 meeting.

“In spite of significant increases in county obligations for emergency services, healthcare insurance premiums, post-retirement healthcare fund, and the county pension fund, for the second consecutive year, overall spending has declined,” said Commissioner Bob Thomas.

The operating fund millage rate will remain at 22.55 mills.  The library tax for the participating municipalities remains unchanged at 0.80 mills. The debt service is going up from 2.1 to 2.6 mills.

The increase in tax obligation overall equates to less than $10 per year for the owner of a property with a fair market value of $150,000.  Fiscal Director Teresa Beckner noted that Franklin County’s property tax rate is still among the lowest 20% of Pennsylvania counties.

The commissioners continue to seek increasing productivity and efficiency through technology.  They are investing in Geographic Information System (GIS) technology for more accurate data for emergency services, planning, tax services and election services.  Digitizing, microfilming, and electronically archiving thousands of legal documents, while also disposing of unnecessary ‘hard copy’, will result in significant savings in the planned new courthouse, they say.

The equivalent of two fulltime employees will be hired to handle the initiatives and work with a fifth judge of the Court of Common Pleas, to be seated in January.

Open spaces preservation, economic development, and environmental programs remain a priority.  “In spite of the cuts, we felt it was important to continue to adequately fund programs that are important to all of our citizens,” said Commissioner David Keller.  Funding is also set aside for updating the county’s comprehensive plan.

Major budget cuts enacted in April 2009 allowed the county to continue operations during the state budget delay. It maintained human services in the absence of state funding.

“As Franklin County continues to grow, so does the demand for essential government services.  In the face of reduced state funding, this board is committed to adequately funding human services programs, and we believe this budget is true to that commitment” said Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski. 

The April budget cuts also resulted in decreased operating costs which laid the groundwork for a balanced budget in 2010, said the commissioners.  They presented the balanced budget as a reflection of their commitment to sound fiscal policy.

The 2010 Franklin County budget can be viewed online at www.co.franklin.pa.us