County’s 2019 budget presented

County’s 2019 budget presented

The 2019 revenue and expenditure plan for Allegheny County was presented Tuesday night at a meeting of County Council.   In the county’s Home Rule Charter (VII,2,b) the chief executive is required to “appear before County Council to present the budget message and submit the comprehensive fiscal plan no later than 75 days before the end of each fiscal year.”

The operating budget as proposed is $932.4 million, up 2.9 percent over the $905 million for this year.  With capital, grants and special accounts the total spending tops $2.2 billion. As our 2016 report on county finances showed, total expenditures grew 46 percent from 2000 to 2015, slightly higher than inflation in that same period.

Property taxes are budgeted at $376 million based on 4.73 mills and represent close to 80 percent of the total tax revenue generated.  There is a ballot question to raise property taxes 0.25 mill but that proposal is not mentioned in the budget document. The county’s share of the Regional Asset District sales tax is budgeted at $50.2 million and the levies on alcoholic drinks and vehicle rentals are projected to raise $51.1 million.  That is far more than enough to generate the match for mass transit and continues to point out the puzzling situation in which the Port Authority receives a piece of the asset share of the sales tax.

Of the expenditure categories public safety is projected to far outpace the overall 2.9 percent growth in the budget with an increase of 4.64 percent to grow from $247 million this year to $259 million in 2019.  Public works and facilities and culture and recreation–expenditure categories that total $70 million–are also expected to grow faster than the overall percentage change for the budget.  The spending categories of economic development and debt service are budgeted for a decrease of just over $200,000.  On a departmental basis all departments will see an increase with the exception of Shuman Center (-0.22 percent) and County Council (-13.89 percent).

The county’s headcount is expected to increase by 36 full-time equivalents, with half of the increase accounted for by new hires at the jail. Based on the narrative section on the jail’s operations there is a 2019 initiative on minimizing overtime at the facility.