Early county budget shows no tax increase

The Washington County Board got an introduction to the 2013 budget on Aug. 7, one that requests no increase in the property tax levy.

Kevin Corbid, deputy county administrator, presented the preliminary budget to the board during a workshop. Additional detail for the new budget will be presented by department heads in August.

The board will have until December to review proposals and provide direction. A final property tax levy and budget will be approved in December. County residents are invited to comment at any time during the process.

A budget hearing is scheduled for the evening of Dec. 6. The proposed notice of property taxes for 2013, which will be mailed to each county property owner in late November, will include the times and dates of all budget hearings.

The preliminary budget calls for no increase in the county property tax levy or the levy for the Land and Water Legacy Program. Non-property tax revenues, which include fees for services and state and federal funding, are projected to increase by just 0.1 percent. Total budget expenditures of $173.4 million are the same as in 2012, and are made up of a 2.2 percent increase in operating expenditures and a decrease of 12 percent in capital expenditures.

It is projected that county program aid, state funding to pay for a portion of the costs for programs mandated that counties provide on behalf of the state, will increase in 2013, to $6.8 million, but with continuing state budget projections, the county may not receive the full amount. If received, the additional state funding is budgeted for one-time expenses for road paving projects, vote counting equipment and additional costs from out-of-home placement for children.

The proposed budget adds 10 employees in the coming year, primarily to keep pace with the requests for health care and food support, and to restore hours to the county’s libraries.

Since the beginning of the recession in December 2008, the county’s health care caseload has increased by 36 percent, and the food support caseload has increased by 105 percent. The county’s libraries have been closed Sundays and Mondays in 2012; increased staffing will allow the libraries to restore a portion of those hours in 2013.

The proposed budget also includes a return to traditional office hours for county buildings of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except in license centers, libraries, Women, Infants and Children clinics, and the Environmental Center.

The budget will be reviewed by the county board over the next six weeks, and is a budget that meets the guiding principles established by the board at the beginning of the process. It places a high priority for spending on core services that address the essential health, public safety, welfare and transportation needs of the residents and taxpayers of Washington County.

In addition to the budget overview, the board also received more detailed budget information from the county’s internal services departments, accounting and finance, administration, human resources and information technology.