Bucks County commissioners have decided to hold taxes level for the fourth year in a row, dipping into the county's surplus to plug a budget shortfall and give some extra cash to the library system.
Commissioners approved the $447 million budget by a 2-1 vote yesterday.
Commissioner Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia said she voted against the budget because it did not address programs she had suggested, including spending an additional $5 million to manage a program for bridge maintenance.
"Your budget isn't just about taxes," she said. "It's a document that expresses the quality of your programs as well."
Commissioner James F. Cawley suggested that the county increase its contribution to the county library system to help make up for a 21 percent cut in state funding - a loss of about $850,000, according to the library. The library system has laid off 10 full-time and 10 part-time staff members and reduced hours at its seven branches, according to library staff.
"While I'm loath to bail Harrisburg out of a responsibility . . . unfortunately what happens in Harrisburg doesn't stay in Harrisburg," Cawley said at the meeting. "It rolls down to people, and it affects real people and affects them very seriously."
County commissioners decided to draw the additional $150,000 from surplus funds, increasing the county's 2010 contribution to the library system to $5.7 million.
The library plans to use the money to restore some of its open hours, Bucks County Library executive director Martina Kominiarek said.
"We are just so grateful the commissioners took a second look," Kominiarek said. "This will get us in a better position."
Sharp increases in county employee health care and pension contributions created a $7.1 million deficit in the 2010 budget. Health care for county employees will cost the county $31.2 million, an increase of 10.5 percent over the 2009 budget, said Brian Hessenthaler, county finance director. Pension contributions more than doubled to $14.1 million, up from $6.7 million in 2009, he said.
Finance staff whittled the deficit to $5.7 million before yesterday's meeting. The county will tap into its reserve, leaving $63.9 million in the pot, said David Boscola, deputy finance director. The county is required to keep 10 percent of its total expenditures, or $44 million, in reserve, Boscola said.