Dauphin County Commissioners proposed 2019 budget holds the line on taxes for unprecedented 14 years

HARRISBURG, PA (November 21, 2018) The Dauphin County Commissioners announced today they would hold the line on property taxes for a record 14 straight years as they preliminarily approved the 2019 budget.

“Holding the line on taxes for 14 years means always looking at how things are done with an eye to both improving service and lowering costs,’’ said Dauphin County Board of Commissioners’ Chairman Jeff Haste. “We never stop looking for ways to be more efficient about how we spend our limited tax dollars.”

Haste also thanked the county’s row officers, President Judge Richard A. Lewis and the courts for their efforts in controlling costs, calling today’s budget “a true team effort.’’

The $247 million preliminary spending plan is available for public inspection, with final approval expected on Dec. 12. To view the proposed 2019 budget, visit www.DauphinCounty.org or the 4th floor of the Dauphin County Administration Building, 2 S. Second St., in downtown Harrisburg.

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 $40.8 million for both facilities, a 1.28 percent increase that is below the inflation rate.

“Consolidating the prison and Judicial Center allows us to coordinate better how we handle those coming into the system,’’ said Commissioner Mike Pries, who oversees the county’s prison system. “For offenders who don’t pose a risk to themselves or others, we are streamlining our supervised release process, and for those going to jail, we can better coordinate any drug or counseling treatment they may need.’’

Between last month and October 2017, the Judicial Center handled 12,143 arrestees and the prison averaged 1,061 inmates.

In 2013, when the commissioners 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.

Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III said with the consolidation of the prison and Judicial Center, the county this year is in a position to focus on identifying the counseling and treatment needs of individuals at the time of their arrest and continue that programming either in prison or on supervised release.

“Simply putting people in prison isn’t the answer – the only way to break the cycle of arrest and re-arrest is to address the underlying problems, which many times are issues related to mental health, drug addiction, or both,’’ Hartwick said.

“Being able to provide system reform and control costs have all occurred because of this board’s ability to work together to fix problems, not point our fingers,” Hartwick added.

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.