Allegheny County Council approves 2022 budget, avoiding property tax hike for 10th year in a row
Allegheny County Council gave its blessing Tuesday to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s proposed budgets for 2022, marking the 10th consecutive year without an increase in the property tax millage rate.
The operating budget represents a roughly 3% increase in expenditures over the pre-pandemic budget for 2020. Fitzgerald has said that federal coronavirus aid from the American Rescue Plan will help to offset new costs and make up for substantial revenue losses related to COVID-19.
“These past two years have been unprecedented as the pandemic impacted the health of county residents, as well as the county’s finances," Fitzgerald said in a statement following the council's budget vote. "We would not have been able to recover financially while also investing in our community and its residents were it not for federal funding, and the continued support of county council."
The federal coronavirus relief will allow the county to return to pre-pandemic staffing levels and operations, county officials said when Fitzgerald unveiled his spending plan in October.
Council voted nearly unanimously Tuesday to approve Fitzgerald’s operating and capital budgets. Democrat Bethany Hallam was the only councilor to withhold support for both proposals. She instead abstained, saying that Fitzgerald’s administration and county council members should have solicited more public input during the budget approval process.
Under the $990.6 million operating budget, the county health department will receive more than $446,000 in new funding to expand its health laboratory services throughout western Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, spending at the county jail will jump by more than $12 million. Fitzgerald said in October that the money will help jail administrators to manage voter-approved restrictions on the use of solitary confinement, restraint chairs, leg shackles, and pepper spray.
The county public defender’s office will also get a $640,000 funding boost to hire seven new employees and enlarge its office space.
About $180 million in capital investments will finance 73 infrastructure and capital improvement projects. Some of the money will drive sustainability initiatives such as green parking solutions, the acquisition of electric vehicles for the county fleet, and net-zero parks projects, according to county officials.
Council on Tuesday also approved a nearly $336 million, or 24%, increase in spending linked to federal, state, and private agency grants. The $1.7 billion grants and special accounts budget includes money from the American Rescue Plan as well as funding for social services administered by the county’s Department of Human Services.