Bucks County last week released its preliminary 2021 operating budget of $467.4 million, a 3.3 percent increase over 2020.
The proposed budget projects a deficit of roughly $12 million at the current tax millage rate. No decision has been made on whether a tax increase will be considered to balance the budget.
Last year, faced with a projected deficit of $16.3 million, the outgoing Board of Commissioners voted to increase taxes by one mill – about $36.50 per year for the average taxpayer – and dip into the county’s general fund balance for the remaining $7.6 million that was needed.
Additional withdrawals from the general fund balance are among the options this year, along with further cuts in spending and another tax increase, said Chief Operating Officer Margaret McKevitt and Chief Financial Officer David Boscola.
Boscola said initial budget requests from county departments have already been cut, reducing an initial $21 million shortfall to the current $12 million deficit.
McKevitt 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.
Bucks County is projected to carry a general fund balance of $30.9 million into 2021. The county continues to hold AAA bond ratings from Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s. These ratings benefit taxpayers through lower borrowing costs on current and future bond issues.
As in previous years’ budgets, county departments providing health, housing and human services account for the largest portion of the proposed 2021 budget – 48.9 percent. Departments dedicated to providing public safety account for 26.6 percent of the total.
Among the factors driving the preliminary 2021 deficit are increased pay and benefits for employees, debt service and unfunded state and federal mandates, Boscola said.
Over the next several weeks, the county commissioners will analyze the proposed 2021 budget and hold a public hearing where 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, Dec. 16.
To view the 2021 preliminary operating budget, click here.