Washington County to set preliminary levy Sept. 10

Board continues department reviews


The Washington County Board of Commissioners continued reviewing the county’s proposed 2014 budget Aug. 27 by discussing budgets from Community Services, Public Health and Environment, and the Minnesota Extension Service.

Community Services has a proposed budget of $39.2 million in revenue. Expenditures fall into six major categories: social services, economic assistance, mental and chemical health, Workforce Center, administrative costs, and veterans services.

Health care cases, which have grown steadily throughout the recession, have now stabilized at about 9,400, as opposed to 6,700 at the beginning of the recession. It is expected that cases will increase by another 2,600 as a result of the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act, and current cases will be converted to follow the rules in the new system. Nine staff positions were added in 2013 to accommodate those changes. Also, the Legislature mandated a new assessment process for determining how persons with disabilities and older residents receive services. The assessment, MnCHOICES, will greatly increase the number of hours required to do the 3,500 assessments required each year, and the department will add 10.5 staff positions to comply with the new rules.

The Public Health and Environment Department is proposing a $13.4 million budget for 2014, an increase of 4 percent from 2013. Of that revenue, 10 percent is received from the county tax levy, with 47 percent received from the County Environmental Charge, a fee assessed on garbage collection bills. Additional funds are from federal and state grants, and fees for services and licensing. Programs that protect the environment will receive 60 percent of the expenditures, with healthy community programs receiving 17 percent and 9 percent going to health services. The rest of the budget is directed to programs that fight infectious disease, infrastructure and emergency preparedness.

The department is seeing an increase in family health home visits and an increase in jail medical services and costs. The expansion of Medical Assistance, through the Affordable Care Act, is expected to provide more people with health care coverage, and may impact the services the department provides.

The department will be involved in setting policy direction for the future of the County Environmental Charge and the resource recovery facility, which is where solid waste is processed into fuel for power plants.

The Washington County Extension budget includes money for a 4-H coordinator and a Youth Teaching Youth program coordinator. The budget calls for a 1.5 percent increase from last year, for a total of $286,509. The Extension office is asking that Washington County contribute $159,200 of that, including money from the county levy and in-kind office operations expenditures. The remainder of the funds is from grants, fundraising and dues.

The county board began its budget review Aug. 6. The proposed budget includes a proposed tax levy that will result in the owner of a home valued at $207,000 – one that increased in value by 2.4 percent from last year, the countywide average for residential property – seeing a decrease of $4 in the county’s portion of the property tax paid in 2014. The recommended budget has a property tax levy of $86.7 million, a 0.66 percent increase from 2013. The levy is part of an overall $147.4 million county operating budget for 2014.

The County Board will set a preliminary levy Sept. 10. The final budget and levy will be adopted in December. Residents are invited to comment or ask questions on the proposals at any time during the review.