The Board of Bucks County Commissioners Robert G. Loughery, chairman, Charles H. Martin and Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, LCSW, Chief Operating Officer Brian Hessenthaler and Director of Finance and Administration David Boscola presented the county’s preliminary operating budget for 2015 today at the Bucks County Courthouse. The proposed budget of $393.3 million represents a 1.4 percent decrease compared to 2014. According to Mr. 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 offices.
Weighed against decreased revenue projections, the proposed 2015 budget creates an $81,600 surplus. “The current budget cycle marks the second consecutive preliminary budget that contains a surplus,” Mr. Boscola stated. “Strict cost containment measures put in place since 2012 have put the county in a much better position than in previous budget cycles.”
The county continues to track ahead of budget for 2014, and is projected to carry forward a general fund balance of $49.2 million into 2015. During 2014, Bucks County had its Aaa bond rating reaffirmed by Moody’s Investors Service, a rating that continues to benefit taxpayers through lower borrowing costs on current and future bond issues. In addition, the County earned its first-ever AAA bond rating from Standard & Poor’s during September of this year.
Chairman Loughery highlighted the fact that the 2015 budget likely will mark the eighth time in nine years that the county will not raise property taxes.
“We continue to work hard at keeping the costs of county government in line, and this year’s preliminary budget is further proof of that effort,” Chairman Loughery said, thanking county division leaders, department heads, court officials and row officers for their efforts during the process. “In fact, it shows a working budget in which expenditures are actually less than previous years. This is due to fiscal measures put in place over the past few years and the hard work of our chief operating officer and finance director, as well as the department heads, elected officials and courts. We have reduced the head count and footprint of county government while still delivering the superior services that residents have come to expect.”
Chairman Loughery also pinpointed ongoing cost containment measures such as the 2012 hiring freeze for non-essential positions, reduction of the county workforce through attrition, and efforts of the Position Review Committee (PRC) for creating the budget surplus in 2013. Variables for 2015 include unresolved union contracts, healthcare costs, and required employer pension contributions. In addition, there are still items to be finalized with the courts and certain row offices.
As has been the case with previous budgets, the county’s Health and Human Services Division accounts for the largest portion of the proposed 2015 operating budget, or 46 percent ($220.2 million); departments covering public safety account for 30 percent ($142.4 million) of the total.
Over the next three weeks, the Board of Commissioners will carefully analyze the proposed 2015 budget. 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, December 2 at 7 p.m., in the Bucks County Courthouse Community Room (1st Floor). The 2015 budget is slated for adoption on Wednesday, December 17, at 10 a.m. during the Commissioners’ Meeting at the Bucks County Conference and Visitors Bureau in Bensalem Township (3207 Street Rd.).
“This budget process has been extremely difficult due to the decrease in revenue we foresee next year,” Mr. Hessenthaler explained. “By continuing to focus on the reduction of expenditures we are able to present a budget for 2015 that does not impose any additional burden to our taxpayers. For that I commend all those involved in this process.”
The 2015 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 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 2015 preliminary operating budget, please visit www.BucksCounty.org and click on the budget link on the home page. (You can also listen to the budget release meeting online.)Stay tuned to the official county website for comprehensive updates about the budget process.