County budget: tax rates same, headcount up

County budget: tax rates same, headcount up

The Allegheny County chief executive presented the county’s comprehensive fiscal plan Tuesday night at a meeting of County Council.  The fiscal plan encompasses the operating, capital, grant and agency budgets for 2020, altogether $2.3 billion. 

The operating budget is a proposed $959.8 million, which is $27.4 million (2.9 percent) over this year’s budget.  The largest revenue component is the county’s property tax, which is expected to generate $382.4 million.  That is 78 percent of all tax revenue (county’s share of RAD sales tax, the drink and car rental taxes and the host fee from the Rivers Casino) and 40 percent of total revenue (state revenue, federal revenue, licenses and permits, charges and fines).  The property tax rate is not scheduled to increase.  In 2019 taxable assessed value was $80.2 billion. 

By expenditure program area, close to 70 percent of the operating budget is accounted for by health and welfare and public safety.  Respectively, these expenditure areas are $382.6 million and $270.6 million.  The remaining operating budget expenditure areas are general government at $81.2 million (8 percent), public works and facilities at $51.3 million (5 percent), culture and recreation at $22.4 million (2 percent), economic development at $4.2 million (0.4 percent), debt service at $72.2 million (8 percent) and other programs, which includes the match for the Port Authority and Community College, at $74.9 million (8 percent).

The budget proposes renaming one department and spinning off part of another, similar to how Facilities Management was created from Public Works in 2013.  Overall, compared to 2019, full-time headcount is expected to increase by 97 employees to stand at 5,995.  Based on the 2018 Census estimate for the county’s population (1,218,452) that would result in a per 1,000 resident rate of 4.9.  That’s a 2 percent increase over 2019 and an 8 percent increase over 2015 (when estimated population was 10,000 higher).  In each year from 2015 through 2020 the operating headcount, as adopted by the budget, has grown.