DOYLESTOWN >> Bucks County on Nov. 20 released its preliminary 2020 operating budget of $450 million, a 4.2 percent increase over 2019.
The proposed budget currently projects a deficit of roughly $16.3 million at the current tax millage rate. No decision has been made on whether a tax increase will be considered to balance the budget.
There is the potential for further cuts in expenditures, as well as dipping into the county’s general fund balance, said the county's Chief Operating Officer Brian Hessenthaler and Director of Finance and Administration David Boscola, who describe the budget as a work in progress.
The projected deficit already has been reduced to less than half of the initial $39 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.
“We will continue to evaluate the budget submissions in an attempt to reduce the operating deficit,” Hessenthaler said. “This challenge becomes increasingly difficult each year as we continue to ask more from our staff in an environment where we are seeing decreasing revenue streams.”
Bucks County is projected to carry a general fund balance of $33.2 million into 2020. 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 2020 budget – 49.3 percent.
Departments dedicated to providing public safety account for 26.8 percent of the total.
Among the factors driving the preliminary 2020 deficit are increased pay and benefits for employees, Boscola said. Revenue losses in the Emergency Communications Department and row offices are also contributing to the shortfall.
Over the next several weeks, the county commissioners will carefully analyze the proposed 2020 budget. That process will include a public hearing during which members of the public may ask questions and offer comments. The date of the public hearing has not yet been set.
The budget is scheduled for final consideration and adoption on Wednesday, December 18.
The 2020 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 a copy of the budget, click here