Editor's note: The following information comes from the Chester County Communications Office. A few small errors were corrected from the original version.
The Chester County Commissioners unanimously approved the 2013 budget today. The budget calls for $424,086,751 in operating expenses and $95,885,073 for its capital budget.
“The County has not raised taxes since 2009 and we’ve worked hard to keep taxes as low as possible this year for taxpayers,” said Commissioners’ Chair Terence Farrell. “We faced the challenges of decreasing revenues and increased funding needed for emergency services, to finalize a budget that delivers the necessary services to our residents at a fair cost.”
The budget calls for a five percent increase in county real estate taxes, which equates to an additional $32.86 for a median assessed property value of $165,760.
Vice Chair Kathi Cozzone commented: “Over the past five years, the County has experienced a number of challenges, from an $11 million annual decrease in interest on our investment income, to a flat property tax base and significant decreases in state and federal funding for services, including emergency services. I thank County department heads and staff for their input and in reducing costs, which they’ve managed to do while preserving the quality services that our residents rely on.”
Commissioner Ryan Costello also pointed out the increases in pension costs and health benefits, along with the necessary capital investments that must be made. “Public safety is one of our top priorities and we must spend money on a new emergency services radio system,” Costello said. “But even with the increased capital needed for emergency services, as well as the decrease in revenues, Chester County still has one of the lowest tax rates in Southeastern Pennsylvania.”
In the past four years the County has streamlined the operating costs of county departments. The General Fund budget is almost $8 million less than it was in 2009 and the county now has almost 200 less employees than three years ago.
At today’s public meeting the Commissioners also approved a one percent increase in the county hotel tax from two percent to three percent. Chester County was only one of two counties in the state that did not charge a rate of three percent.
Chester County tourism is an important industry in the County as it employs 11,865 people and generates more than $76 million is state and local taxes and $84.3 million in federal taxes. Tourism brings in almost $650 million a year in spending.
Costello said evidence shows that the increase in the hotel room rate will not hurt tourism and is expected to bring in an additional $750,000 in tax revenues. The money is to be used for improving county parks and for marketing county tourism.
The approved Chester County 2013 budget will be posted at www.chesco.org.