Washington County commissioners review 2014 proposed budget

Proposal includes slight increase in property-tax levy

Budget discussions are officially under way at the Washington County Government Center.

The proposed 2014 county budget was presented to the Washington County Board of Commissioners at its Aug. 6 meeting. The recommended 2014 county operating budget is $147.4 million, and the recommended capital expenditures budget is $23.1 million.

Last year, the county board set the 2013 budget at $172.7 million, with no increase in the county’s portion of the property-tax levy.

The 2014 recommended levy, at $86.7 million, represents a .66 percent increase from 2013, according to a news release from the county. That increase, which is under the 1.2 percent increase allowed by state law, would be the first county property-tax levy increase in four years if it’s approved by the board.

There would be a 1.38 percent total increase from last year when the levy for the county’s Land and Water Legacy Program is included, said Deputy County Administrator Kevin Corbid.

Despite the recommended slight increase, Corbid said the proposed levy would result in about a $4 decrease in county property taxes for the average home valued at $207,000, up roughly 2.4 percent from last year, because the tax base has been growing.

After changes made during the 2013 state Legislative session, Washington County is scheduled to receive $9 million in aid from the state, a $2 million increase from the previous year. The additional aid will help pay for state-mandated programs and should take some pressure off the county property-tax base, according to the news release.

The statement said key initiatives for 2014 would include restoring some library hours at county libraries, and increasing funding for road pavement preservation. Other improvements to county parks, service centers, roads and technologies will also be made.

The county will be adding roughly 19 staff in 2014, including sheriff’s deputies, nurses at the Washington County Jail, other community corrections personnel and staff to implement the MnChoices project, which assesses services for seniors and people with disabilities.

The county board will review budgets of individual departments in the coming months. The board will set the preliminary “not-to-exceed” county property-tax levy in September, and will continue reviewing budget details until adopting a final levy and budget on Dec. 17.

Alex Holmquist can be reached at aholmquist@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.

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