The Bucks County Commissioners and their administration announced on Wednesday the county’s proposed 2024 spending plan, which includes a significant deficit.
The county’s preliminary budget is $483.5 million, a 5.5 percent increase compared to the 2023 budget.
The commissioners – two Democrats and one Republican – have avoided tax hikes since the current administration took office in 2020, and a tax increase is not included in the budget for 2024. However, the commissioners will have to deal with a projected $16.7 million budget hole.
The proposed budget calls for filling the deficit with money from the $55.7 million the county has in the bank.
“As with the 2023 proposed budget, the structural deficit continues to present a challenge to balance county revenues that are not keeping pace with county expenditures,” said Bucks County Chief Financial Officer David Boscola. “For the next four weeks, Finance will continue to work with the county commissioners and all county departments to eliminate the deficit.”
The county has until a planned vote on Wednesday, December 20 to work on the budget.
The past several budgets have been buoyed by federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and COVID-19 relief money.
The county plans to have a 1.8 percent increase in revenues in 2024, according to the proposed budget.
A review of the $483.5 million proposed spending plan shows the commissioners will increased their budget by 4.6 percent after a decrease last year, the district attorney’s office will see a 14.4 percent budget increase, the sheriff’s office will see a 6.3 percent increase, the coroner’s office will see expenditures drop by 3.1 percent, the county’s contribution to SEPTA will rise by 7.9 percent, the county funding for the library system will remain even, the emergency services budget will increase by .07 percent, and the health department will see a 1.1 percent rise is spending.
Nearly three quarters of the county’s spending is focused on public safety, health, housing, and human services.
The county budget supports roughly 2,300 employees and a number of departments, the courts, and elected row offices. Among the agencies covered are the Area Agency on Aging (AAA), Behavioral Health/Developmental Programs, Board of Elections, Children and Youth Social Services Agency, Community Services, Corrections, Emergency Services, General Services, Health Department, Neshaminy Manor, Parks and Recreation, and Veterans Affairs. It also covers the courts and the county’s nine elected row offices, such as the Clerk of Courts, Controller, Coroner, District Attorney, Prothonotary, Recorder of Deeds, Register of Wills, Sheriff, and Treasurer.
In the coming weeks, the county will review the proposed spending plan and host a public hearing on it.