County unveils preliminary 2014 budget with no tax increase
● By ACL
The preliminary 2014 county budget was presented to the Chester County Commissioners at today’s sunshine meeting work session. The proposed budget decreases spending and doesn’t increase taxes for county property owners.
“It seems for all of us that everything costs more every year, and we’re very sensitive to that fact,” said Commissioner Chair Ryan Costello. “This budget advances our priorities and goals of helping vulnerable people, ensuring safe and secure communities, supporting the development of a strong economy, increasing access to transportation systems and managing growth and land development without passing on an increase in taxes to provide these services. It’s a testament to the leadership of the County that we plan to spend less in 2014 than in 2013, without diminishing services in any respect.”
Commissioner Kathi Cozzone commented, “Our county staff works hard, not only with regard to the budget process, but also in delivering the ongoing programs to the citizens of the County. In many instances it’s not easy work and county departments can be burdened with the financial constraints they’re under. To be able to reduce spending, yet successfully maintain much needed services, is commendable.”
Commissioner Terence Farrell also gave credit to the county’s senior staff, department heads and the 2,400 employees noting, “Everyone worked hard to bring this prudent and common sense preliminary budget to fruition. We’ve had to factor in some financial obstacles into the 2014 budget, including advancement on the emergency voice radio system, the public safety training campus and roof repairs, as well as increased costs relating to medical benefits. It is a great achievement to maintain the quality level of services to citizens while returning value to our taxpayers by not increasing taxes for 2014. ”
A public budget hearing will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, in the Commissioners’ Board Room at 313 West Market Street. Final adoption of the budget will take place during a December Commissioners’ meeting.
The tax rate will remain the same at 4.163, according to the preliminary budget. The overall decrease in spending over 2013 will be $4,183,976 representing 0.8 percent. The 2014 proposed budget is $522,750,992 while the 2013 budget is $526,934,968. Operating costs decreased by $1,119,898 while capital spending decreased by $3,064,078.
Mark Rupsis, Chief Operating Officer for Chester County, said, “This budget reflects the fiscally responsible approach to budgeting and management that the Board of Commissioners requires, to provide the services our citizens want and that are mandated, at a reasonable cost. As is the case every year, the 2014 budget will be presented in a way that is easily understood and fully transparent.”
Budget challenges for 2014 included a slight increase in county employee medical plan costs, staff to support two new judges for the Court of Common Pleas, an almost $13 million expense for implementation of the next phase of the emergency voice radio system, more than $7 million for the next phase of the new public safety training campus, and a roof repair for the Government Services Center building that is estimated to cost more than $2 million.
The 2014 preliminary budget continues to support the Commissioners’ strategic priorities and goals featured in the county’s Managing for Results program. Revised priorities and goals were approved last month following stakeholder group discussions, a citizen survey and public hearings.
Commissioners’ priorities and goals for the coming year include:
Health, human services & environment: commissioners’ goals relate to preserving the quality of our air, water, and soil, promoting health in our community, and supporting outreach to better inform citizens of the services offered by the county.
Public safety: Commissioners’ goals relate to maintaining the high quality emergency services citizens have come to rely upon, while advancing the use of technology, and enhancing the capability of public safety professionals and volunteers.
Economy: Commissioners’ goals relate to supporting new businesses, generating employment, promoting tourism, and promoting the county’s agricultural production.
Transportation: Commissioners’ goals relate to the county using its influence to improve transportation infrastructure, address traffic congestion, and create transportation choices for citizens.
Growth: commissioners’ goals relate to protecting the county’s open space, supporting revitalization and workforce housing opportunities, and enhancing community facilities such as libraries, parks, and trails.
Smart financial management: commissioners’ goals relate to the county having an annually approved five-year capital plan, following the best practices of the national advisory council on state and local budgeting, maintaining a strong financial policy, and reporting performance data annually.