Spending plan does not necessitate tax increase
As expected, the Chester County Commissioners unanimously approved the 2014 budget on Wednesday, a spending plan that holds the line on taxes for county residents.
“This budget reflects Chester County’s commitment to provide the best services at the lowest cost to the taxpayer,” said Commissioners’ Chairman Ryan Costello. “It demonstrates our continuing process of maintaining tight control over expenditures, while seeking new, cost-effective methods to deliver the services that are mandated, and that our residents want.”
The 2014 budget calls for $429,821,896 in operating expenses and $92,929,096 for its capital budget.
Commissioner Kathi Cozzone applauded county employees’ efforts in the process. “We faced the challenges of decreasing revenues and increased funding needed for emergency services and other critical services for our citizens,” she said. “I’m pleased that our staff has again been able to prepare a budget that continues to provide quality services at a reasonable cost to our taxpayers.”
Commissioner Terence Farrell noted that increases in health benefits as well as capital investments had to be addressed. “Public safety remains one of our top priorities, and this budget includes the necessary multi-year investment in a new emergency services radio system, along with the expansion of the Public Safety Training Campus,” he said.
Chester County’s tax rate remains one of the lowest in southeast Pennsylvania. In the past five years, the county has streamlined the operating costs of county departments and reduced the number of full-time employees. It has also undertaken regular reviews of health benefit costs which, combined with its employee wellness program, has resulted in a medical cost increase of two percent, well below the national average increase in health costs, county officials said.
The balanced budget was attained despite declining revenue – including decreases in state and federal funds – and the investment linked with the addition of two new Court of Common Pleas judges. The county’s property tax base slightly increased. Chester County continues to actively manage its debt requirements, with its Aaa/AAA ratings being reaffirmed at the end of October by Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, officials said.