Proposed 2013 Washington County Budget: No Increase in Property Tax Levy
The Washington County Board of Commissioners continued its review of the county’s 2013 budget Aug. 21, a budget that requests no increase in the property tax levy.
The recommended budget, first introduced to the board by Kevin Corbid, deputy administrator, Aug. 7, 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. Proposed 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.
The board will adopt a proposed levy Sept. 11.
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.
Additional detail for the 2013 budget will be presented by department heads and elected officials during August. During the Aug. 21 meeting, the board heard budget plans for the Sheriff’s Office, the Attorney’s Office, and the Department of Community Corrections.
The Sheriff’s Office is planning to maintain the same number of employees, 235.5 full-time equivalent, as it has in 2012. The number includes the 22 deputies who are contracted and paid for by communities in the county to provide law enforcement directly in those communities. The number of cases investigated by the Sheriff’s Office is projected to increase slightly in 2013, from 1,279 in 2012 to 1,317 projected for 2013.
Revenue for the county’s jail from leased jail beds is projected to remain steady for 2013, at $205,000, the same amount received in 2012.
The office is anticipating the installation of a new records management system, which will integrate records systems of the Sheriff’s Office with the police departments, public safety departments, and fire departments across the county. The office will also continue the “Take It to the Box” drug disposal program, along with the implementation of a new inmate commissary system.
The majority of the office’s proposed $27,593,300 budget—$22,114,900—will be from the county property tax levy. The rest is from intergovernmental funds, fees, and other sources of revenue. In expenditures, $20,766,100 will be for wages and benefits, and $4.2 million will be for operations. Other expenditures are direct payments and capital expenses.
Budget challenges for 2013 include the growing expenses for jail medical and mental health care, as well as the need to continue to maintain the security system in the jail.
The Attorney’s Office proposed budget is for $4,832,600, with $4,246,600 coming from the property tax levy. The remainder is from fees for services, fines and forfeitures, and grants. Expenditures will be $4,329,800 for wages and benefits, and $469,800 for operations.
Initiatives for the Attorney’s Office include a Veterans Program, which places an emphasis on services from the Veterans Administration, instead of county resources. It also targets specific issues for veterans who served in combat. The office is also concentrating on keeping students in school, with truancy petitions increasing from 42 in 2011 to 70 in 2012. The office has also had a reduction in the number of days it takes to turn around a criminal case, and has worked with Community Corrections to make changes in the diversion system.
The Community Corrections budget is proposed to be $9,611,200, with $6,749,900 planned for wages and benefits. Of that, $6,656,400 is from the property tax levy, $2,489,300 is from state revenue, and $465,500 is from fees. The department’s programs include the adult division, the juvenile division, and the Sentence to Service Program.
An initiative of the department uses a Lethality Assessment Protocol to identify those who are most likely to harm a partner, which creates a specialized caseload for intake and supervision, and increases victim safety. A challenge for the 2013 budget is the cost of juvenile placements, which had been going down in recent years, but are now increasing in 2012, a projected increase of 42 percent over the previous three-year average.