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Bucks County Releases Preliminary 2019 Operating Budget

November 21, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Larry R. King, 215.348.6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

Bucks County today released its preliminary 2019 operating budget of $442 million, a 4.3 percent increase over 2018.

The proposed budget currently projects a deficit of roughly $15.5 million at the current tax millage rate. No decision has been made on whether a tax increase will be considered to balance the budget.

“Each year, it seems, new regulations and burdensome paperwork from the state, the normal cost of living increases and the growing needs of the community – ranging from overcrowding in our prisons to the opioid crisis – make these budgets more difficult,” County Commissioners Chair Robert G. Loughery said. “Again, though, we will find ways to balance these needs with the taxpayers’ interests to complete this budget before year’s end.”

Chief Operating Officer Brian Hessenthaler and Director of Finance and Administration David Boscola described the budget as a work in progress, with the potential for further spending cuts in expenditures as well as dipping into the county’s general fund balance.

The projected deficit already has been reduced to less than half of the initial $35 million shortfall that existed after initial budget requests came in from county departments.

Hessenthaler and Boscola said that the county commissioners, county administrators, court officials and row officers would continue scrutinizing revenue and expenditures in hopes of further closing the gap.

“In the best interests of our residents and taxpayers, we are constantly challenging our people to continue to provide quality services in the most efficient manner possible,” Hessenthaler said. “The challenge becomes more difficult each year, but I am confident we will be able to achieve our goal at the end of the day. We will continue working on a budget to reflect the most efficient and responsible use of our taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.”

Bucks County is projected to carry a general fund balance of $35.6 million into 2019. The 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.

As in previous years’ budgets, the county’s Health Division and Housing and Human Services Division account for the largest portion of the proposed 2019 budget – 48.5 percent.

Departments dedicated to providing public safety account for 27.5 percent of the total.

Among the factors driving the preliminary 2019 deficit are increased pay and benefits for employees, the addition of 14 new positions in 2018, and rising costs for debt service, Boscola said. Revenue losses in the Emergency Communications and Health Departments are also contributing to the shortfall.

Over the next several weeks, the county commissioners will carefully analyze the proposed 2019 budget. That process will include a public hearing on Wednesday, November 28, during which members of the public may ask questions and offer comments.

The public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. in the Commissioner’s Meeting Room on the first floor of the Administration Building, 55 East Court Street in Doylestown.

The 2019 budget is scheduled for final consideration and adoption on Wednesday, December 19, 2018.

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, including the Clerk of Courts, Controller, Coroner, District Attorney, Prothonotary, Recorder of Deeds, Register of Wills, Sheriff and Treasurer.

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