County adopts pre­lim­i­nary bud­get, faces short­fall

The Advance of Bucks County - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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