No trick to this treat - no new taxes
This treat is no trick, but it did take some hard work by Chester County officials to bring to life.
Just in time for Halloween, the county announced Tuesday that the 2019 preliminary budget includes no increase in county real estate taxes, while keeping the level of service in county departments — including human services, public safety, and the courts — at approximately the same level as this year.
“This was a struggle going through,” county Chief Financial Office Julie Bookheimer told the audience at the commissioners’ Sunshine work session, at the conclusion of a brief outline of the county’s financial plan for the coming year. “But overall the tax rate will not be gong up, and that looks good for the county.”
Bookheimer said that under the county’s proposed budget, the general fund would increase to $475.9 million, up from $471 million. The total budget would rise to $539 million, including a steady $63.4 million capital budget.
Taxes, paid for by county property owners, would stay stable at 4.369 mills, with the median county property owner
paying about $731, an increase over 2018 rates of $1.71, Bookheimer said. A mill is worth $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
Real estate tax receipts account for about $167 million of the county’s revenue, second only to the $190.1 million it gets from state and federal grants to keep the county’s services running smoothly.
The main increase in spending under the 2019 budget that will come out of local taxpayer funds are an estimated increase in funding for the county’s pension plan. Costs in 2018 for the county’s retirees are $9.3 million, but are expected to rise to $11.1 million in 2019, Bookheimer said.
In addition, the county anticipates having to spend $6 million to $8 million to upgrade its voting machines in time for the 2020 presidential election. The state has ordered a new set of certification requirements for the county’s voting machines to meet, which Bookheimer said would mean the replacement of about 520 machines for the county’s 228 precincts.
The county is one of the jurisdictions across the state that uses electronic counting machine to total election results, but which also have a backup paper trail in case a recount is necessary, as it was in 2016.
Bookheimer said that the proposed budget would be presented to the public at an open session scheduled for 7 p.m. on Nov. 27. Tentative adoption of the budget by the commissioners is set for Dec. 12.