|He's Got One Hand on the Door|
The proposed 2014 budget for Northampton County presents a reasonable spending plan while considering the growing needs of County government. The administration has assembled the 2014 budget without a tax increase while maintaining the tax rate at 10.8 mills.
Personnel costs constitute 44.9% of proposed total operating budget expenditures. These costs increased by approximately $8 million (5.7%). Salaries, which comprise 27.9% of proposed total operating budget expenditures, increased approximately $3.7 million (4.2%). Fringe benefit costs, which represent 17% of proposed total operating budget expenditures, increased approximately $4.3 million (8.3%).
As presented in the 2014 proposed budget, the Open Space Initiative will remain a high priority with 1/2 mil of tax ($3.7 million) set aside for this purpose. Contributions of $700,000 for County parks and $1 million each for municipal parks, farmland preservation and environmentally sensitive are proposed.
In order to understand the 2014 proposed budget, several major events occurred in 2013 which had an impact on the proposed 2014 budget and are listed below:
• The County purchased an archives building to eliminate the need for payments to an outside vendor for record storage services. The building now allows the County to house all archived records locally, under one roof, to eliminate record storage in separate facilities and locations.
• Debt service includes the payments associated with issuance of the 2013 bond. The 2013 bond issue provided funds for capital projects which include reconstruction and rehabilitation of 18 county bridges, replacement of generators at the Courthouse and Gracedale Nursing Home, and renovations to the boiler house at the Gracedale complex.
• Plans were finalized and construction began on a new human services facility located on Emrick Boulevard in Bethlehem Township. The building will consolidate most Human Services divisions into one centralized location for the convenience of the citizens of Northampton County. Occupancy is expected by March of 2014. As a result of this initiative, the Bechtel and Wolf buildings were sold.
• Work on Guaranteed Energy Savings (GESA) projects are near completion throughout the County. The GESA projects savings is evidenced by the decrease in budgeted energy costs throughout the County. These projects included county-wide upgrades to heating, cooling and electrical systems, plumbing, and building insulation. The Gracedale sewer line project is now complete.
Beyond 2014, the County faces additional challenges including ongoing reconstruction and rehabilitation costs relating to an additional 15 bridges, potential construction of a regional forensic morgue, a possible stray animal facility and continuing maintenance projects to various County facilities. The County is prepared to meet these challenges while continuing to provide quality services to its citizens.
Finally, I wish to recognize and thank the dedicated accounting staff in Fiscal Affairs for not only assembling this budget, but for their relentless monitoring of the County's spending. Since this is my final budget message, I also wish to thank the present and past County Council Members for their support. But most of all, I wish to recognize and thank the County employees, many of whom labor without recognition in their own dedicated way. As residents and citizens of Northampton County, we should all be proud of their efforts. They are our most valuable resource.