The Bucks County Commissioners on last week passed a modest tax increase in approving the county’s 2020 budget of $452.6 million.
In addition to the one-mill tax hike, which will raise slightly more than $8 million, the commissioners approved the use of $7.6 million from the county’s $33.2 million general fund balance to help erase a significant deficit in the preliminary budget released last month.
Under the county’s current millage rate, the average property owner pays about $880 per year in county taxes. The one-mill increase would raise that by about $36.50 per year for the average taxpayer.
The final budget represents a 4.6 percent increase over the 2019 budget of $432.6 million. Commissioners’ and Commissioner Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia voted to approve it, while Vice Chairman Charles H. Martin voted against it. 2020 budget cover
Director of Finance and Administration David Boscola, who last month projected a preliminary deficit of $16.3 million at the current tax millage rate, said the annual budget contains “an enormous amount of fixed costs” that limit the county’s options in cutting spending.
Nonetheless, that deficit had been pared to less than half of the $39 million shortfall the county faced when initial budget requests came in.
“It again was a challenging year, and putting together this budget for 2020 wasn’t easy,” Loughery said, “but I think we’ve come up with an in-the-middle sort of solution before us here today.”
Much of the shortfall was attributed to increased pay and benefits for employees, along with reduced revenues in some departments.
Marseglia said she was “thrilled” that the budget provides for additional staffing to meet the needs of the Children & Youth Social Services agency. “This is going to be a budget that’s good for children,” she said, adding that the county “probably needed two mills this year.”
It was the final commissioners’ meeting for Loughery and Martin, who are leaving the board in early January.
Marseglia and the two incoming commissioners, Gene DiGirolamo and Robert J. Harvie Jr., will have the option, as a new board, of re-opening the budget in January to make adjustments if they desire. Marseglia has not said whether she will seek to do so.
“This budget (meets) the needs of the county, as Commissioner Marseglia noted, with Children & Youth, and also the Area Agency on Aging and the courts – some of the areas that are experiencing needs and demands from the community for their services,” Loughery said.
As in previous years, the county’s Health Division and Housing and Human Services Division account for almost half of the budget, while departments providing for public safety take up another quarter of the total.
To view the 2019 operating budget, please visit www.BucksCounty.org and click on the “2020 Final Budget” link on the home page.