|LC Exec Tom Muller|
The $399.8 million budget features no tax increase and includes a reserve 20% above recommended guidelines. The County's millage rate will remain at 3.68 and the average homeowner will pay $668 in County real estate taxes.
"Proposing a budget with no tax increase has been made possible by the efforts of our employees to every day to serve our citizens effectively and efficiently," said Muller. "We expect to end 2016 with a $5.3 million surplus thanks to their efforts." A focus on employee "wellness" has also helped keep healthcare costs under control.
This is the third consecutive year that Muller's administration has successfully wiped out a budgeted deficit and returned a surplus.
The 2016 surplus and a $2.4 million draw down of reserves is being used to offset a $7.7 million budget deficit for 2017 generated by small tax cuts pushed through by commissioners over the past two years.
After 8 years of personnel reductions, the 2017 count is flat overall with 9 new positions being added--primarily to public safety areas--offset by reductions through attrition. The personnel total of 1,962 is below the 1988 level for the County.
The 2017 Proposed Budget reinstates funding taken away from the Northern Lehigh Community Center by the commissioners last year, provides funding for the 75th anniversary of the naming of MacArthur Road in Whitehall and contributes to the capital campaign for new lights for Limeport Stadium in addition to numerous "Quality of Life" and "Tourism" grants.
The 2017 Proposed Budget also includes the $2 million for farmland preservation that had been proposed by Muller and was recently approved by the Board of Commissioners.
The Lehigh County Board of Commissioners will now begin a series of hearings in September leading up to a final budget vote by the end of October.
The full, detailed Lehigh County 2017 Proposed Budget may be viewed on the County's website: