The Dauphin County Commissioners today approved a $247 million budget for 2019 that holds the line on property taxes for an unprecedented 14 years straight and puts the county on track to be debt free by 2025.
“We never forget that the taxpayers are relying on us to spend their money wisely and that guides every decision we make,’’ said board Chairman Jeff Haste. “Every year it gets tougher to keep a lid on property taxes. It takes careful budgeting and a willingness always to find a better, more cost-effective ways of getting the job done for our residents.’’
Barring unforeseen costs in the future, the 2019 spending plan continues the county’s path of paying off the current $68 million in debt by 2025.
Additionally, the budget includes $11 million for the county’s municipal bridge project – a first of its kind in Pennsylvania. Under the program, the county is using state transportation-related funds to cover 40 percent of a municipality’s cost to repair or replace its bridge. The rest of the money can be borrowed from the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank and ultra-low rates.
County officials are working with municipalities to determine the initial list of bridges.
“Without this program, township and boroughs would be forced to either close or weight-restrict bridges or raise local taxes fix them,’’ said Commissioner Mike Pries. “We’re looking at long-term solutions and working with our municipal partners to improve the quality of life in the county.”
A significant saving for 2019 is consolidating operations at the Dauphin County Prison and the adjacent Judicial Center, which handles the booking and initial bail hearings for those arrested throughout the county. Combining the staff at both facilities saved $500,000 this year and is projected to save $800,000 in 2019.
The proposed 2019 budget anticipates spending $40.7 million for both facilities, a 1.28 percent increase that is below the inflation rate.
When the commissioners in 2013 opened the Judicial Center in Swatara Township, located next to the prison, the county had three main goals: give police more time to patrol by reducing the time spent with prisoners; find non-jail alternatives for low-risk arrestees; and better coordinate addiction treatment and other services with either those going to jail or under supervised release.
“This budget is another example of how we prioritize good government and leave political partisanship at the door,” said Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III. “We’re committed not only to protecting the pocketbooks of county taxpayers but also to emphasizing best practices and meeting the needs of people in our community who need help most.”
Other cost savings helping to balance the proposed 2019 budget include:
- Reducing healthcare costs by $7 million since 2009 by self-insuring.
- Saving $1 million by hiring only once a quarter instead of immediately filling vacancies.
- Continuing efforts to make county buildings more energy efficient, which are expected to save $80,000 in electricity next year.
For more information on the 2019 budget, visit www.DauphinCounty.org.