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 2016 today at the Bucks County Administration Building in Doylestown. The proposed budget of $400.9 million represents a 1.8 percent increase compared to 2015. According to Mr. Boscola, the preliminary budget draft remains a work-in-progress, which will include ongoing scrutiny and input from the Board of Commissioners, administration, courts and row offices.
“The current budget cycle marks the third consecutive preliminary budget that contains a surplus,” Mr. Boscola stated. “Strict cost containment measures put in place since 2012 continue to put the County in a much stronger position than in previous budget cycles.”
The County continues to track ahead of budget for 2015, and is projected to carry forward a general fund balance of $50 million into 2016. During 2015, Bucks County had its Aaa bond rating reaffirmed by Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s, ratings that continue to benefit taxpayers through lower borrowing costs on current and future bond issues.
Chairman Loughery highlighted the fact that the 2016 budget likely will mark the ninth time in 10 years that the County will not have to raise property taxes.
“This is a very good preliminary budget especially given the circumstances and uncertainty that we still face without a state budget,” Chairman Loughery said. “In addition, it is a budget that for the fourth consecutive year does not include a property tax increase. Over the next few weeks we will work hard to finalize this budget for 2016.”
As has been the case with previous budgets, the county’s Health and Human Services Divisions account for the largest portion of the proposed 2016 operating budget, or 47 percent ($228.9 million); departments covering public safety account for 29 percent ($144.4 million) of the total.
Over the next three weeks, the Board of Commissioners will carefully analyze the proposed 2016 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 Wednesday, December 2 at 6 p.m., in the Bucks County Administration Building Community Room (1st Floor). The 2016 budget is slated for adoption on Wednesday, December 16, at 10 a.m. during the Commissioners’ Meeting at the Bucks County Conference and Visitors Bureau in Bensalem Township (3207 Street Rd.).
“The budget process continues to be a challenge every year due to the economic times we are in. Although economic indicators are beginning to show an overall recovery, we in the government sector usually do not feel the impact of that uptick for a year to two years,” Mr. Hessenthaler said. “I would like to commend everyone involved with the preparation of this budget, particularly the Finance department.”
The 2016 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 2016 preliminary operating budget, please visit www.BucksCounty.org and click on the budget link on the home page. Stay tuned to the official county website for comprehensive updates about the budget process.