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County commissioners introduce 2023 budget with no tax increase

Butler Eagle File Photo

The county commissioners on Wednesday introduced a $244 million budget for 2023 that includes a $74.8 million general fund and does not raise taxes.

The budget, which the commissioners will formally consider at their Dec. 21 meeting, reflects a 4% decrease in the total budget and a 9% decrease in the general fund due to the influx of federal grants.

County officials said they expect the budget to return to pre-COVID-19 levels beginning in 2024, when most of the federal grant money has to be spent or committed to projects.

The budget also includes a fund balance of $4 million, which is an increase over this year’s $2.89 million fund balance.

A 157-page copy of the detailed version of the budget that contains projected line-by-line listings of revenue and expenses in all departments and Wednesday’s budget overview have been posted on the county website. A printed version is available in the commissioner’s office.

The 2022 budget and proposed 2023 budget are brimming with grant money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

The $244,499,746 total budget for 2023 is 4% less than this year’s $253,648,079 budget, and the 2023 general fund of $74,838,662 is 9% less than this year’s $81,742,125 figure.

Ann Brown, budget and human services finance director, attributed the decrease to the receipt of ARPA grants.

A $696,389 federal election grant and $1.1 million from the national opioid lawsuit settlement were received this year, but were added to the 2023 budget, Brown said. The county will receive an additional $500,000 payment from the opioid settlement sometime in 2023, she added.

In 2018, the year before the COVID pandemic began, the total budget was $167 million, Brown said.

The general fund — where real estate taxes are deposited and spent from — is projected to receive $52.9 million in real estate taxes and $17.8 million in state and federal funds, and county fees and court costs. The $4-million fund balance is attached to the general fund.

The $52.9 million in projected real estate tax revenue is based on a targeted collection rate of 98% of taxes on property in the county, according to the budget overview. The assessed value of that property is $1.89 billion. The tax rate is 27.626 mills. One mill is equal to $1 in property tax levied per $1,000 of a property's assessed value.

From those property taxes, $41.7 million, or 21.7 mills, will be allocated for general purposes; $5.6 million, or 2.93 mills, will be the county’s contribution to Butler County Community College; and $5.5 million, or 2.91 mills, will be allocated to debt service, according to the overview.

Public safety accounts for 30%, the largest share, of general fund expenditures followed by the courts at 22% and general government at 20%. Other departments range from 1% to 8%, according to the overview.

The largest expenses for operations are $15.8 million for the prison; $7.9 million for court administration and related offices; $7 million for contributions to agencies including BC3, Community Development Corporation, Penn State Extension office, libraries and the airport; $5.1 million for debt service; $3.6 million for the adult probation office, $3.1 million for Children and Youth services; $3 million for the sheriff’s office; $2.5 million for the district attorney’s office; and $1.7 million for the juvenile probation office.

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