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United Way of Lancaster County


Commissioners approve Lancaster County’s 2024 budget

From left, commissioners John Trescot, Ray D’Agostino and Josh Parsons preside at a budget hearing at the County Government Center on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

It took the Lancaster County commissioners roughly 1 minute to pass the county’s 2024 budget Wednesday morning.

Given the extensive discussion and analysis in the weeks leading up to the vote, “I don’t have anything more to say,” Budget Director Patrick Mulligan said.

The three commissioners, likewise, did not add to their comments made at earlier meetings.

Property tax stable

The budget keeps the county’s property tax rate unchanged at 2.911 mills, marking the 11th year without an increase. (A mill equates to $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value.) It forecasts $182.6 million in general fund expenses and $186.7 million in revenue, which would bolster the general fund reserves at the end of 2024 by a nominal $100,000.

Adding in the county’s “funded agencies” — Behavioral Health/Developmental Services, Children & Youth, Domestic Relation, Drug & Alcohol and the Office of Aging — adds another $123.5 million in spending, mostly covered by state and federal pass-through funds, for a total budget package of $306.1 million.

For more information

The Budget & Financial Information page on Lancaster County’s website includes the budget resolution; a detailed “budget book” showing all line item allocations; the presentation shown at the county’s Dec. 12 budget hearing and grant requests made to the county by third-party entities.

Salaries & benefits

The budget forecasts spending $100.7 million on general fund payroll and benefits — the first time those outlays have exceeded $100 million, Mulligan said at the county’s Dec. 12 budget hearing. The payroll for other agencies totals $43.5 million. In all, the county is funding nearly 1,900 positions, including general fund and funded agencies.

Patrick Mulligan

The budget includes the third and final step of the county’s “salary equalization” initiative, the result of its compensation study, which will give many non-union employees a 2.5% wage bump Jan. 1 on top of their year-over-year increase.

Mulligan noted in passing the $250,000 allocated to offset the county’s new tax credit for volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel. It’s intended to encourage recruitment and retention: “It’s a very good idea,” he said.

Expanding on remarks he made when the budget was introduced, Commissioner John Trescot warned at the Dec. 12 hearing that the county will be covering a roughly $4 million deficit in 2024 with American Rescue Plan Act “revenue replacement” funds, the first time it has done so. (Lancaster city is doing the same; it has made use of “revenue replacement” since 2021.)

Moreover, Trescot said, the county has not budgeted for another $2.5 million in payroll expenses it can expect to incur as the result of an arbitration decision covering union employees in three county law enforcement offices (juvenile and adult probation/parole and domestic relations).

“We are exceeding what we are taking in,” he said. “… There is a big gap that’s got to be worked on.”

Trescot, appointed in 2022, is stepping aside for his newly elected successor, Alice Yoder. Incumbents Ray D’Agostino and Josh Parsons, both re-elected this past November, offered more positive assessments of the county’s fiscal situation.

Parsons said the budget reflects “responsible, efficient, effective government” that achieves Lancaster County priorities, including public safety, infrastructure upkeep and farmland preservation. Its tax rate is the third lowest in Pennsylvania and the lowest among large counties.

D’Agostino said budget estimates are ever-changing and forecast deficits do not always materialize. The county has navigated recent inflationary “headwinds” well, he said, and he encouraged staff to “dig in” and continue seeking efficiencies going forward.