With tax revenue already budgeted and a bond issue, Elk County officials have been able to purchase the Industrial Technology Education Center [ITEC] to house the county's 911 Center with no new taxes.
"In the taxes that we bring in in our budgeted tax revenue, there is a small percentage for at least the last 20 years that has been levied for capital improvements," said Daniel R. Freeburg, one of three commissioners for Elk County.
These funds have been used for a variety of projects, including the acquisition and renovation of the Courthouse Annex along Center Street, the renovation of the county's courthouse along Main Street in downtown Ridgway, and the improvements and expansion of the Elk County Prison.
"The jail was expanded upon long before we were commissioners and that earmarked small portion of everyone's tax bill that comes in on a regular basis will just carry on to pay for the 911 Center," Freeburg said.
"It turns out that through all the bonds and things, our annual payment on that debt, which is a very small amount, will actually be less than what we were paying for the other things, so there's a chance that when all the dust settles and everything is done, there's a pretty good chance that we could have a little extra, which we would certainly return that."
The capital improvement fund has been in existence for approximately 20 years and, according to Elk County Commissioner Ronald T. Beimel, taxes have not had to be raised for any of these projects over the years.
"If we had not done what we did, we would've been debt-free by the end of this year-- but with the 911 Center, we didn't have to put on additional taxes, we just rolled what we had in the debt fund, we just rolled that debt fund over into a new activity, and it's very much needed," Beimel said.
A closer look at the typical county taxpayer's bill on a yearly basis indicates the contribution to be roughly $2.92.
"That's what it equates to for the average homeowner with maybe a $70,000 home-- and that's what they've been paying for the past 20 years," Freeburg said. "It's about $20 or so a year, but it amounts to $2 a month.
"For an advanced 911 system that will last us 50 years, who could have a problem paying $2 and some odd cents a month?-- but again, this is where the confusion always gets in the newspaper, it's not $2 more a month that anyone is paying, that's just what it is that they're already paying."
Pick up a copy of the Wednesday, June 29, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.