County adopts preliminary budget, faces shortfall
DOYLESTOWN - Bucks County Commissioner Chairman Robert d. Loughery, Chief 2SeUDWLng 2IfiFeU BULDn HeVsenthaler and cinance Director David Boscola presented the county’s preliminary operating budget for 2013 on Nov. 21 at the Bucks County Courthouse. The proposed budget of $467.5 million represents a 1.2 percent increase over 2012.
According to Boscola, the preliminary budget draft remains a work-in-progress, which will include ongoing analysis and input from the Board of Commissioners, administration, courts and row RIfiFeV.
“$nRWheU YeUy GLIfiFuOW EuGget,” Boscola said. “Due to ongoing economic conditions that the county has tried to weather for a number of years, the county continues to face some YeUy GLIfiFuOW GeFLVLRnV. 6WULFW cost containment measures put in place for 2012 have put the county in a much better position than this time last year. We still have a ways to go.”
Weighed against revenue projections, the proposed 2013 budget creates a $2.7 million gap. Explaining the major reasons for the shortfall, Boscola attributes them to declining UeYenueV flRwLng IURP Whe VWDWe and federal governments and a stagnant tax base.
“Preparing the 2013 operating budget has been a fairly interactive process, and a lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes,” Chairman Loughery said, thanking county division leaders, department heads, FRuUWV RIfiFLDOV DnG URw RIfiFeUV for their efforts during the process. “Although the (preliminDUy) EuGgeW VhRwV D GefiFLW Ln its current form, I’d like to point RuW WhDW LW’V VLgnLfiFDnWOy OeVV than last year (when there was a $24.2 million preliminary budget gap). We still have to make VRPe GLIfiFuOW GeFLVLRnV. 2uU revenues are not increasing, but our expenses are.”
Chairman Loughery pointed to cost containment measures such as the 2012 hiring freeze for non-essential positions, attrition of the county workforce, and efforts of the Position Review Committee (PRC) IRU SDULng Whe EuGgeW GefiFLW. rnknowns for 2013 include unresolved union contracts and union healthcare costs, and required employee pension contributions. “By reducing the footprint of county government, we have made a big impact on the budget,” Chairman Loughery added.
The county will carry over a projected general fund balance of $44.3 million into 2013. Last year, Bucks County had its $DD ERnG UDWLng UeDIfiUPeG Ey Moody’s Investors Service, a UDWLng WhDW FRnWLnueV WR EenefiW taxpayers through lower borrowing costs on upcoming bond issues.
As has been the case with previous budgets, the county’s HeDOWh DnG HuPDn 6eUYLFeV Division accounts for the largest portion of the proposed 2013 operating budget, or 46 percent ($213.9 million); departments covering public safety account for 31 percent ($143.3 million) of the total.
Boscola noted that the commissioners have multiple alternatives to address the $2.7 million shortfall as they conVLGeU DGRSWLRn RI D finDO EuGgeW, which traditionally has occurred GuULng Whe finDO &RPPLVVLRneUV’ Meeting of the calendar year (Wednesday, Dec. 19, at the Bucks County Conference and sisitors Bureau in Bensalem Township). They include further cuts to expenditures, idenWLfiFDWLRn RI DGGLWLRnDO VRuUFeV of revenue, drawing down the county’s general fund balance, raising taxes, or some combination thereof.
Over the next four weeks, the proposed 2013 budget will be carefully analyzed by the Board of Commissioners. That process will include a public budget meeting, during which any interested member of the public will be able to ask questions and offer input about the budget’s content. The public budget meeting will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. in the Bucks County Courthouse Community Room (1st cloor).
“Many of the steps we have taken have put us in a more favorable position this year,” addeG HeVVenWhDOeU. “HRweYeU, we are not completely there yet.”
The 2013 budget includes provisions for departments serving Bucks County residents such as Area Agency on AgLng ($$$), BehDYLRUDO HeDOWh, Board of Elections, Children & Youth Social Services Agency, Corrections, Emergency SerYLFeV, GeneUDO 6eUYLFeV, HeDOWh DnG (PeUgenFy HeDOWh, 0enWDO HeDOWh/DeYeORSPenWDO 3URgUDPV (0H/D3), 3DUNV DnG Recreation and seterans Affairs, among others. The budget also provides for courts and elected URw RIfiFeV, LnFOuGLng Whe &OeUN of Courts, Controller, Coroner, District Attorney, Prothonotary, Recorder of Deeds, Register of Wills, Sheriff and Treasurer.
To view the 2013 preliminary operating budget, visit www. BucksCounty.org and click on the budget link on the home page.