Bucks County needs to fill a $16.3 million budget gap before the end of the year.
The county unveiled their proposed 2020 budget Wednesday at the Administration Building in Doylestown Borough. The spending plan is for $450 million, a 4.2 percent increase over 2019.
County officials said no decision has been made yet on whether a tax hike is needed.
The budget gap isn’t the largest the county has seen at this point in the process and top bureaucrats seemed confident it will be patched.
For the 2019 budget, which was introduced in the lead up to an election year for key county offices, the Commissioners held the line on taxes by making last-minute cuts and pulling $1.3 million from the county’s general fund balance.
Nearly of the county departments are expecting to spend more in 2020 than they did in the 2019 budget.
Chief Operating Officer Brian Hessenthaler and Director of Finance and Administration David Boscola said during the scantly attended budget meeting that work is still underway to fill the budget hole.
“It is preliminary. We will be working with the Commissioners over the next few weeks to work this number down more,” Hessenthaler said.
Boscola said the row offices are seeing decreasing revenue and less assistance from the state. He added that row officers have done their best to keep expenses in line.
The county COO said a tax increase, drawing from the general fund, and cutting spending are all being evaluated as ways to balance the budget.
“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.”
Hessenthaler stated that if every departmental spending request was approved, the budget shortfall would be closer to $39 million.
The county employs about 2,400 people with the average pay and benefits package between $80,000 and $90,000, Boscola said.
Bucks County continues to hold a AAA bond rating from Moody’s Investors Service and Standard and Poor’s. This rating benefits taxpayers through lower borrowing costs on current and future bond issues.
The Commissioners are expected to vote on the spending plan at their Wednesday, December 18 meeting.
With a new majority coming into power come January, the Commissioners could reopen the budget and pass a new one before February 15.