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From the Desk of County Commissioner
Jim Martin

(9/2014) While serving as county commissioner I have become acutely aware of the importance of our various community organizations. Many of these organizations fulfill essential needs for our citizens and at the same time are actually relieving the county’s financial burden.

A local organization known as Gettysburg C.A.R.E.S. is an excellent example. This organization provides emergency shelter from November to March and has established a resource center to complete their mission. The resource center provides a shower, a laundry, job application assistance and a base for those they serve to reestablish a productive future. This form of community support does relieve a burden from government when there is pressure to provide resources for such an operation. This project is definitely in hands much more appropriate than that of government. A special thanks to all who made this program a reality.

Another valuable grass-roots organization that reaches out to help our community is Mediation Services of Adams County. I feel that many of our residents are not aware of this service that is provided at minimal cost avoiding expensive litigation and arbitration. Periodically, I receive calls from individuals not knowing who to turn to next in a genuine effort to resolve conflicts or legal issues. Mediation Services of Adams County has provided our department directors and myself a means of referring individual to a possible source of needed help.

The two examples above are not an exhaustive list of burden -lifting projects and programs in Adams County. I would be remiss if I did not mention the financial assistance provided by the Adams County Community Foundation that has made many Adams County projects and programs possible. The funds they provide are definite financial shock absorbers and relieve the fund raising burden from the recipients. Not only that, but the burden also does not fall on the taxpayers of Adams County.

That being said, there are other initiatives that, if handled differently, would also reduce the financial shock to the County Budget. The Civil War Trust’s purchase of the Quality Inn and General Lee’s Headquarters falls in this category. As we look toward this important task of preservation, at the same time let us build an avenue to reduce the loss of real estate tax revenue once preserved property becomes tax exempt. The Civil War Trust becomes endowed with handsome donations made by those who are compassionate about Civil War preservation and have the financial ability to provide the funds. Consideration should be given to the impact this has on the tax base of the county and municipalities. From my general conversations with others of like mind, our question to the Trust is, "Why not designate a portion of your incoming funds (say 3%) for PILOT payments to the county and affected municipalities?" PILOT is the anachronism for Payment In Lieu of Taxes. In Boston many tax exempt institutions make substantial PILOT payments to the city to relieve the city’s financial burden.

As a county we are maintaining a positive margin between revenues and expenses. That margin, however, has been diminishing. Last year’s real estate tax revenue increases did not keep pace with the inflationary increase in expenses. Looking ahead we cannot sustain that trend in the long run. By receiving PILOT payments the situation becomes more manageable. Theoretically PILOTS could alleviate the pressure to increase taxes. Looking for the classic win-win scenario-this can be the opportunity - the Trust provides PILOT payments while preservation continues and the county is provided financial relief.

On the other hand, everyone can be assured; the Board of Commissioners is regularly engaged in projects which help contain county expenses. We are presently embarking on a new project that other institutions have utilized which resulted in cost containment. This project involves a third party review of dependents on our employees’ health insurance policies. Over the course of time, dependent status changes and those changes need to be accurately reflected in insurance premiums. Insurance experts regard this subject as one of the more difficult aspects to track. Historically, from this type of audit the industry reports errors ranging from 2-3% to 10+% regarding dependent eligibility. Regardless of the amount of potential savings that may be realized, it is a responsible management tool.

During the past two and a half years the County has been extremely pro-active in containing our rising health care costs and premiums. By being pro-active our county employees have become better health care consumers and are making good health care decisions that have reduced the shock of rising premiums. Two years ago we were overwhelmed by the enormous renewal premiums for employee health insurance. Refusing to accept these increases, we took a new path from business as usual. Through detailed profession analysis and competitive solicitation, we were able to trim premium increases. The total benefit of becoming better health care consumers and smarter rate shoppers, trimmed our premium increases in excess of $2 million. The Board of Commissioners thanks everyone who cooperated in this effort to combat excessive increases in insurance premiums.

Best regards with anticipation of more positive reports, Commissioner Jim Martin

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