Conservative budgeting allows Dauphin County Commissioners to hold line on taxes for unprecedented 13th straight year
HARRISBURG, PA (November 22, 2017) – The Dauphin County Commissioners today unveiled a $241 million preliminary budget that holds the line on property taxes for an unprecedented 13th straight year.
But the good news is tinged with sadness: The coroner’s office is adding one full-time and two part-time deputies to deal with the rise in opioid-related overdoses, which this year has claimed 82 lives but is expected to be more than 100 by end of December. In 2016, the county saw 85 overdose deaths – surpassing those killed in car accidents.
The spending plan is open for public inspection over the next 20 days. The board of commissioners is scheduled to vote on the 2018 budget at their public meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 13.
“This board pledged to do all we can to improve the lives of our residents,” said board Chairman Jeff Haste, “holding the line on taxes for 13 years and combating the devastating opioid epidemic are part of that promise.”
In September, the commissioners announced plans to join the legal fight against pharmaceutical companies that aggressively marketed opioids while downplaying the addiction dangers. The lawsuit is being handled on a contingency basis, meaning taxpayers are not responsible for the legal costs and the county will share in any money recovered. All money received will go toward paying for drug abuse treatment and prevention programs.
“We’ve work hard to maintain vital services for our residents while managing our limited tax dollars responsibly,” said Commissioner Mike Pries. “Taking a conservative approach to budgeting has allowed us to go 13 consecutive years without raising taxes.”
The commissioners saved the county about $1 million in salary costs by hiring only once a quarter instead of immediately filling vacancies. Self-insuring is expected to keep next year’s health insurance increase to 4 percent and has saved taxpayers an estimated $5 million since 2009.
“From day one, this board said we would do all we can to better the lives for all our residents and holding the line on taxes is one way and fighting public health hazards is another,’’ said Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III.
“Between June 2016 and July 1017, we spent $19.6 million to help almost 3,000 residents receive treatment for addiction,’’ Hartwick said. “Suing drug manufacturers and distributors who helped cause the opioid epidemic will force them to help us reach the people they’ve harmed and hopefully spare families in the future from tragedy.’’
Similar to this year’s budget, the 2018 preliminary budget calls for using $12.5 million from reserves, leaving an estimated $25 million by the end of next year. Careful budgeting and an improving economy allowed the county to spend less in reserves than expected in 2017 -- $5.2 million instead of the anticipated $12.5 million. Increased real estate sales generated an additional $200,000 in fee revenue from the Recorder of Deeds’ office.
The $241 million preliminary budget for 2018 represents a 4.9 percent decrease in spending due to a change in the way the state will subsidize child care for welfare recipients and eligible working families.
Since 2000, Dauphin County has administered the Child Care Network Grant for south-central Pennsylvania. In 2017-18, the county received $25.3 million, which was mostly transferred to locally run agencies. After June 30, 2018, the state will transfer the program’s operations.
To view the 2018 preliminary budget, please visit www.DauphinCounty.org.