By Terence Farrell
Chester County’s practice of planning and saving for a rainy day has benefitted all citizens during this year’s state budget impasse.
Sound fiscal management is a hallmark of Chester County government as evidenced by the county’s three, triple-A bond ratings. Few counties in the nation have achieved the highest marks possible from the three major bond rating agencies. While the ratings might not possess a “wow” factor in themselves, they are a sign that Chester County has the resources to overcome severe fiscal challenges, resources that helped fund our crucial human service needs over the past five months during the state budget impasse.
State tax dollars are used to fund many non-profit organizations and human services agencies in Chester County. The clients of these human services agencies are among the neediest in the county and the services these agencies offer are vital for their clients’ everyday survival.
Because of its financial planning and saving, Chester County has been able to pay invoices for human services vendors and human services employees’ salaries out of reserve funds. This hasn’t been the case in some surrounding counties where vendors were only receiving a portion of what they are owed.
The state is expected to repay the money spent by counties for needy human services clients. That’s great. But the state won’t be able to recover the lost programs and services. Chester County believes those services are important – but we can’t indefinitely front money and it is unlikely that we will do so after December 31st. The burn rate has been about $6 million every month since July.
Chester County’s 2016 budget is in the final stages of completion. And while there are many costly services that that county must provide for the health and safety of the citizens, we anticipate no tax increase. We pride ourselves on holding the line on taxes without compromising services.
Many people contribute to Chester County’s budget success. Financial experts provide sound advice. The county government’s department leaders and staff make sure taxpayers receive value for every dollar spent.
The county’s administrative staff also works hard on the budget process. Many work-hours over many months are needed to formulate a meaningful budget. We also receive input from the public through public meetings so the taxpayers can have a direct say as to where their hard-earned money is spent.
Throughout 2016 we will compare actual income and expenses to the budget. And soon after the New Year, we will begin our meetings to plan the 2017 budget.
The budget process is vitally important. Being fiscally responsible is vitally important. Just ask those depending on human services assistance.
Terence Farrell is chair of the Chester County Board of Commissioners. He can be contacted at TFarrell@chesco.org.