Thursday, August 21, 2014
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County aiming to hold line on taxes

The preliminary 2013 budget will be made public Nov. 21. Commissioner Chairman Rob Loughery said he plans to make sure there is no tax increase by the time it's adopted in December.

County aiming to hold line on taxes

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Commissioner Chairman Rob Loughery said he intends "to make sure the budget doesn't have a tax increase." (Bucks County)

County officials are trying to avoid raising taxes and laying off workers for the second consecutive year, as they work on the 2013 budget .

“I intend to make sure the budget doesn't have a tax increase,” Commissioner Chairman Rob Loughery said Monday. “I am hopeful that based on actions we took this year, we won't have additional layoffs, but we can't be sure until we get through additional adjustments to the budget.”

The county has laid off 24 workers this year, and has cut about  200 other positions through a hiring freeze, retirements, and attrition Next year’s budget will reflect those full savings, at an average of $85,000 per employee for wages and benefits, Finance Director David Boscola said.

“We’re looking OK. We have some tweaking to do,” Boscola said. “I hope the budget will be the same” as the one adopted last December.

That $461.7 million budget contained a 1.3-mill tax increase. For the owner of a house with the county's average assessment of $35,900, the tax increase cost $45, for a total of $835.

This year’s tax hike was the first increase in six years. The county’s rainy-day fund had been used to keep taxes steady, but the fund has dwindled from $73 million in 2008 to $48 million this year.

The 2013 preliminary budget is scheduled to be made public Nov. 21 at the traditional pre-Thanksgiving Day session at the county Courthouse.

Last year’s preliminary budget contained a $24.3 million shortfall that was covered with about $10 million from the tax hike, $6 million in labor savings, and other spending cuts and revenue increases.

It’s too early to tell the size of the shortfall in the preliminary budget for next year, officials said.

There are a “few unknowns” that must be accounted for, Boscola said, such as contributions to workers’ pensions and expiring  contracts of the major unions, including the Operating Engineers and AFSCME.

Non-union workers agreed to a pay freeze this year.

About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at cpalmer@phillynews.com, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at bfinley@phillynews.com, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

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