Bud­get holds line on taxes

Com­mis­sion­ers ap­prove $432.6M bud­get

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - FRONT PAGE - A press re­lease from Bucks County

>> The Bucks County Com­mis­sion­ers last month unan­i­mously ap­proved a 2019 op­er­at­ing bud­get of $432.6 mil­lion with­out rais­ing taxes.

The fi­nal bud­get rep­re­sents a 2.1 per­cent in­crease over the 2018 bud­get of $423.9 mil­lion.

Di­rec­tor of Fi­nance and Ad­min­is­tra­tion David Boscola, who in Novem­ber pro­jected a pre­lim­i­nary deficit of roughly $15.5 mil­lion at the cur­rent tax mill­age rate, said the bud­get was bal­anced through iden­ti­fy­ing ad­di­tional rev­enue, pro­ject­ing re­duced ex­pen­di­tures for health care and per­son­nel and us­ing $1.3 mil­lion from the

county’s $35.6 mil­lion gen­eral fund bal­ance.

Crit­i­cal to meet­ing the bud­get for the com­ing year will be sav­ings gleaned from closely mon­i­tor­ing whether to fill non-es­sen­tial po­si­tions as they be­come va­cant, Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer Brian Hessen­thaler said.

Hessen­thaler called it the “most dif­fi­cult” bud­get in his 15 years with the county.

“And the hard work is ahead of us,” he said. “It’s go­ing to be painful to make this work, but we can all make it work.”

A sim­i­lar fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion faced the county in 2012, when a se­lec­tive hir­ing pro­gram also was im­ple­mented. Un­like that year, the 2019 ad­just­ments are be­ing made with­out a tax in­crease.

As a re­sult of leav­ing many va­can­cies un­filled, the county work­force dropped from 2,634 full­time em­ploy­ees to roughly 2,400 by the end of 2012, and to 2,350 by mid-2013. The county cur­rently has 2,389 full-time em­ploy­ees.

“These bud­gets aren’t easy. They get more chal­leng­ing and com­plex each year,” Com­mis­sion­ers Chair Robert G. Lough­ery said at the board’s year-end meet­ing at the Bucks County Vis­i­tor Cen­ter in Ben­salem. “But we have a bud­get here be­fore us to­day that I think cov­ers much of the ser­vices that are needed in the county.”

De­spite the ex­pected win­now­ing down of the work­force, Lough­ery said the county “will con­tinue to pro­vide those ser­vices at the top level and con­tinue to do the right things for the res­i­dents of Bucks County.”

In bal­anc­ing the 2019 bud­get, Boscola had faced a task that be­gan months ago with a $35 mil­lion gap be­tween ex­pected rev­enues and ini­tial bud­get re­quests from county de­part­ments.

By Thanks­giv­ing, county of­fi­cials had re­duced that pro­jected deficit by more than half and pledged to con­tinue scru­ti­niz­ing rev­enue and ex­pen­di­tures to fur­ther re­duce the short­fall.

Lough­ery thanked Boscola, Hessen­thaler, row of­fi­cers, depart­ment heads and their staffs for co­op­er­at­ing, work­ing hard and col­lec­tively tight­en­ing their belts.

Bucks County con­tin­ues to hold a AAA bond rat­ing from Moody’s In­vestors Ser­vice and Stan­dard & Poor’s. This rat­ing ben­e­fits tax­pay­ers through lower bor­row­ing costs on cur­rent and fu­ture bond is­sues.

The 2019 bud­get in­cludes pro­vi­sions for de­part­ments serv­ing Bucks County res­i­dents such as Area Agency on Ag­ing (AAA), Be­hav­ioral Health, Board of Elec­tions, Chil­dren & Youth So­cial Ser­vices Agency, Cor­rec­tions, Emer­gency Ser­vices, Gen­eral Ser­vices, Health and Emer­gency Health, Men­tal Health/De­vel­op­men­tal Pro­grams (MH/DP), Parks and Recre­ation and Veter­ans Af­fairs, among oth­ers. The bud­get also pro­vides for courts and nine elected row of­fices.

To view the 2019 op­er­at­ing bud­get, visit Buck­sCounty.org and click on the bud­get link on the home page.

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