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York County Commissioners Paid $324 a Year

1830 William Wagner watercolor of the York County Almshouse.
Most of you probably cringe along with me when you see some of the figures we spend as a county today. I’m sure the reaction was the same in 1838 when York Countians read the published report for the year before.
By Pennsylvania Law each county had to publish their budget for the year just completed in the local newspapers. Let’s look at a few figures from 1837.

First, income: The balance in the Treasury January 1, 1837 was $2030.75. The income for the year was $34,429.50¾. Nearly all this revenue was passed on by the local tax collectors, who are listed by name and municipality. The least amount of taxes remitted was $40.40 for Carroll Township and the most was $1,804.91¼ for West Manchester Township.
Click here for an irate letter from the person who was passed over for the West Manchester tax collectors job a few years earlier.
The highest expense for 1837 was $7,808.00 to the Directors of the Poor, “for supplies &c.” York County had a thriving almshouse in those days. It sat in the vicinity of the present-day Alexander Goode School. There was no Social Security or any kind of welfare programs then, so think what the figure would be today if the county had to support all the poor.
How about utilities? The county treasury shelled out $4.00 to William Reed and $12.20 to G. K. Kane for candles. “Wood and Stone coal delivered at Jail, Courthouse, & Commissioners office” totaled $252.87½. Not too bad for light and heat.
The county had some outstanding debt, as $4,265.23 was paid over the year “on Notes held by Individuals, being money borrowed for county purposes.”
Each of the three County Commissioners earned about $324 for the year.
At least we don’t have to disburse $96.48 “For Fox Scalps.” These bounties were usually set by the state legislature but funded at a county level. Why fox scalps? Foxes were very plentiful and loved to eat the farmers’ chickens. This was proof that the fox was eliminated, but the hunter could still use or sell the pelt.
1837 ended with a balanced budget and a $2,761.25¾ balance in the treasury–$730.50¾ than at the beginning of the year. Not a bad way to start 1838.