Despite escalating costs across the board this year’s $432.64 million Bucks County spending plan avoids a tax increase for residents.
At the first in a three-part series of legislative breakfast updates hosted by Upper Bucks Chamber Commerce, Bucks County Commissioners said there would be no tax increase to shore up a $1.23 million budget shortfall.
Commissioners Rob Loughery, Diane M. Ellis Marseglia and Charley Martin presented to an audience made up of business, municipal and nonprofit leaders at the annual State of the County at McCoole’s Arts and Events Place in Quakertown.
They reviewed the budget and what it funds, touched on county services, government building construction updates and volunteerism, and took a moment to thank one of their own.
“We’d been working on the budget since July and adopted it in November. Originally the deficit was much larger, and we’ll use from our reserve to make up the shortfall,” Loughery said.
“People don’t realize how big it is – it’s a big budget, nearly half a billion dollars,” he noted.
Loughery said the opioid crisis continues to strain human services staff and funding and accounts for about 48.8 percent of the budget.
“We are dealing with some major issues in the county,” Loughery said.
Roughly 27.1 percent is spent on public safety and about 35.5 percent of the total budget revenue comes from taxes, he said.
Loughery said construction at the former courthouse was nearing completion and that leased buildings housing various county services, spread out in Central and Lower Bucks County would be “under one roof” for the first time in nearly 50 years.
He noted savings once the renovations are finished would cut a recurring $1 million a year in lease payments for buildings.
Martin reflected on 24 years as county commissioner, including changes in services and government spending during his time as one of Bucks County’s top officials based in Doylestown.
Martin noted when he took office in 1995 the county’s population was roughly 573,000. Today that number tops about 630,000.
The Bucks County Youth center opened in 1996 in Doylestown Township.
During Martin’s tenure district courts have opened in Nockamixion and Richland townships; Bucks County Community College extended service from its main campus in Newtown Township by opening two additional campuses – in Bristol and Perkasie.
“We’ve done work on bridges, including the recently reopened Walnut Street Bridge in Perkasie. We’ve preserved one fifth of the county in open space – or about 220 farms and 17,000 acres,” Martin said.
Martin said the long-awaited connection to the Rails to Trails network should be a step closer when a request for proposal is released this summer to build connections linking Upper Bucks in Richland Township and Quakertown to Lehigh County trail heads at Coopersburg and Upper Saucon Township.