Chester County commissioners said yesterday that repercussions from the economic crisis had motivated them to hold the lines on taxes, and they unanimously approved a 2010 budget of nearly $521 million.

The commissioners said combining $3.9 million in spending cuts with $1.5 million in increased revenue from less-than-expected losses from real estate assessment appeals had helped them spare strapped taxpayers an additional burden.

"Strategic planning is already working for Chester County," Commissioner Carol Aichele said, adding that conservative debt management had aided the commissioners' goal of no tax increase with no cuts in services.

With hard work from the staff, she said, the net cost of county government has been reduced by $27 million over two years and generated $3 million in debt-related savings.

Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said she was "pleased and proud" of the work done on the budget, and she commended the employees who labored to cut costs.

But she said she remained "concerned about where we're going to be next year and the year after that."

Cozzone noted that county employees would not receive raises in the coming year, a practice that she said couldn't continue. In addition, the state is warning that 2010 might be more difficult than 2009, she said.

"While this 'no tax increase' budget is a good thing for taxpayers now, I believe there is some real risk in our revenue estimates, and in some areas we may be cut too tight," Cozzone said.

A hiring freeze remains in effect, with the exception of positions funded by grants, the commissioners said. Workers who leave will be replaced, they said.

The commissioners said some state reimbursements to the county, particularly in the courts and law enforcement, were more than a year overdue.

"It's important to note that county property taxes were never designed to support state-mandated programs," Aichele said.