Bucks County homeowners on average will pay an additional $60 in property taxes in 2024 under a new $486.8 million budget that retains all departments and services like Courts and Row Offices, while erasing the county’s long-running structural deficit.
County property taxes last rose in 2020 under the previous Administration, according to James O’Malley, county spokesperson, who indicated the new two-mill tax increase is expected to raise nearly $17 million annually and enable elimination of the long-running deficit.
“The hike in 2020 wasn’t enough to erase the deficit,” he said. “The new increase is in line with findings from the county’s 2020 bipartisan Transition Team Report, which recommended a two-mill increase as a way to stabilize the county’s finances.”
The new budget was adopted in a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner Chair Bob Harvie and Vice Chair Diane Ellis-Marseglia voting in favor of the full budget package, as recommended to the commissioners by Chief Financial Officer Dave Boscola.
Commissioner Secretary Gene DiGirolamo voted against the budget as well as the tax, millage, and fee schedules. He voted in favor of appropriations to County agencies and authorities.
The modest tax increase that was approved, coupled with the county’s decreasing debt obligations, should remove the need for more tax hikes and stabilize finances at least through the end of the decade, said Marseglia.
“We tried for a couple years to not deal with the deficit during COVID, because we knew people were stretched and they couldn’t afford to have a tax increase,” she said. “Everybody knows we have a structural deficit. Everybody knows where it came from. We have the lowest debt ratio in the collar counties, and I believe we have done a really good job to keep this under $1.20 per week.”
The new budget is a 6.2 percent increase over 2023. In keeping with previous years, the bulk of the new allotments – about 75 percent – are earmarked for departments providing public safety, public health services, mental health services and social services programs.
Harvie said the previous Administration patched budget gaps using the reserve fund – a practice the current Administration ended in the “interest of fiscal responsibility,” said O’Malley – and that today, the fund is as low as it can go without risking a credit rating downgrade.