Bucks County commissioners unanimously adopted next year's $390.7 million budget without raising taxes Wednesday and hired an emergency services director.
To balance the budget, the county will continue a hiring freeze that started a year ago, and reduce the workforce of 2,399 by 50 by June 30, Finance Director Dave Boscola said.
The county started the year with 2,504 workers, and laid off 24 to help reach its goal of 2,400. The balance of staff cutbacks was achieved through attrition.
"We made some difficult choices, and we executed them," Commissioner Chairman Rob Loughery said. "We reduced the workforce and hit our goals. We'll need more reductions, but they'll be modest in 2013."
Boscola said that he expected 50 employees to retire or resign by midyear, and that layoffs would not be needed.
The budget is the sixth in seven years to hold the line on taxes. For the owner of a home assessed at the county average of $35,900, the 23.2-mill tax rate will again collect $835.
This year's budget raised taxes 1.3 mills, or $45, for the owner of a house assessed at the county average.
For the first time in four years, the budget will not dip into the so-called rainy-day fund, Boscola said. This year's budget needed $1.8 million from that fund to balance the budget, and $8.1 million was withdrawn in 2011.
The budget approved Wednesday includes a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for the nearly 400 nonunion workers, whose pay was frozen this year. It does not provide raises for the 2,000 union workers; most of their contracts expire as of Jan. 1, Chief Operating Officer Brian Hessenthaler said.
"If any raises are negotiated, we'll turn to the department heads and tell them they need to make up that cost," Hessenthaler said.
In other business, the commissioners unanimously approved hiring Scott Forster, 38, of Allentown, as director of emergency management/services, at a salary of $85,000. Forster, who has served as division director of training and exercises for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency since February 2010, will replace John Dougherty, who will retire Dec. 28.
For 18 years, Dougherty supervised responses to emergencies such as creek and river flooding and hazardous-waste spills, and oversaw construction of the Emergency Operations Center in Ivyland, Loughery said.
"I never saw a guy so calm under pressure," Commissioners Vice Chairman Charles Martin added.
The commissioners proclaimed Wednesday John D. Dougherty Jr. Day.
He replied: "Now I'll be one of the people calling when my street's not plowed."