November 28 – While the Franklin County Commissioners haven’t had a final approval of the 2024 budget yet, the document has been made public.
It’s technically $1.5 million over budget, but it will balance out with reserve funds.
Franklin County Commissioner John Flannery explained, “We always keep our reserve funds. To keep our double A rating, I think we have to be at 30 days or more of reserve funds. Even with this budget, we’re at 62 days. I think we’re close to 2 million under budget this year, which balances out just perfect, so everything’s in check. I’m very pleased with the staff, the job we did, and all the county management, the elected officials for their participation and getting us where we need to be. So it’s exciting. As always, a little work needs to be done every year. Of course, the wish list has to be dwindled down a little bit. You know it is Christmas time but not for the budget purposes.”
What items were taken out?
Flannery said, “There’s always a wish list when it comes to adding employees, employee wages. Of course everybody wants their departments bigger and I understand that. As a business owner, you have to know when to hire and when not to hire people but everybody wants to do more and I respect that. However, we have a job to do that the taxpayers expect us to do at a certain level. For the most part, probably 75 percent of the taxpayers out there, don’t use our services. It’s that 25 percent that we really have to focus on and take care of. So it’s really difficult to explain that we have a responsibility here in Franklin County to do things that they don’t see every day. We talk about the homeless situation. When you talk about Children and Youth and trying to relocate families and pay people to house children and the situations they’re in, it’s really difficult.”
One tough budget issue is county vehicles.
Flannery said, “The fleet of vehicles, I think for the county, is over 100 different vehicles. I know the sheriff’s department alone, I think they have 16 or 18 vehicles. The coroner has I think eight or 10 vehicles. Children and Youth, we have a bunch of vehicles. We have to maintain those vehicles as best we can and not buy one just because it might hit a certain mileage. You put your wish lists out there and a lot of departments are saying hey, we need two or three new vehicles this year. Well how about we look at one this year and one next year until we get where we need to be. Things of that nature usually bring the budget down quite a bit. That’s one of the biggest expenses, and when you get into some of these vehicles especially in the sheriff’s department, they’re not cheap. Those things are stocked up pretty good. So you can be talking about $100,000 a pop for a lot of the vehicles we use within the county.”
What about a potential reassessment for the county?
Flannery said, “I think that’s going to be a conversation when we have the new board sitting. I think Dean’s going to have to be a big part of that. With Commissioner Keller leaving, we’re not trying not to make too many huge decisions at this point. Because like I said, we have a new board coming and so it’s not really fair to Dean for us to start spending money that he’s going to be held accountable for for the next four years.”
Committee decisions will also need to be made.
Flannery explained, “There’s 50-plus committees that the commissioners serve on. I think four years ago, we just did them straight, hey I’ll take Bob Thomas’s committees. Now I don’t know if Dean’s going to feel comfortable with just transitioning over and taking over Commissioner Keller’s committees and boards. So we’re going to talk about that. There’s nothing that says that we have to do that. He and Commissioner Ziobrowski and I can sit down and we can scramble the pot as much as we want to. So we really, really have to figure that out. I’ve become very passionate about the Franklin County Jail and the prison board as you know, I serve as chairman of that board and it’s become something that I love to do, something that I love to be involved in. So, I’m sure soon to be Commissioner Horst elect is going to have some of his passions that he wants to get involved with. So I think we’re going to meet tomorrow, kind of hash that out. That will be put into play actually on January 2 at our reorganizational meeting, when we will set those in stone and the public will know where we’re serving throughout the county.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “You said something that I like hearing because we were very critical of the commissioners down in Washington County that did that ridiculous ending of a project right as people were going out of office. You do want to avoid that perception that there’s somebody going out of office, doing something huge that then they’re not accountable for. I think that’s a good move. I appreciate Dave Keller cooperating with that because that was a horrendous thing that those commissioners did.”
Flannery said, “Thank you for bringing that up. That was very important to us. Commissioner Ziobrowski and I talked about that. I can’t tell you how many times in the last couple of months we’ve said hey, hold on. Let’s hold off on this. This is not an emergency. This is not that important. We don’t have to deal with this right now. We need to wait until Dean is seated and we can talk about this and move forward as the new board. So that’s really, really important. It means a lot to me and I give credit to Commissioner Ziobrowski because he’s on it as well and he feels it’s extremely important.”
To see the Franklin County 2024 budget, click here: https://lfweb.franklincountypa.gov/WebLink8Public/Browse.aspx?id=11938092&dbid=0&repo=FranklinCounty8