2013 budget holds line on levy, spending: Commission hears outline of proposal

    Washington County’s proposed 2013 budget holds the line on the tax levy and spending and includes several operation changes, including additional hours at county libraries, the Board of Commissioners were told Tuesday.
Major changes proposed in the package include spending $260,000 to re-open major Washington County Library branches on Mondays and return county business hours to an 8 a.m.-to-4:30 p.m. schedule at some buildings.
The county’s net tax levy remains unchanged and would produce slightly more than $86 million in revenue, according to Assistant County Administrator Kevin Corbid.
“This is the third straight year with a levy that has been flat,” he said.
A homeowner whose residence is valued at $250,000 would see their county property tax bill drop from $827 to $805, a $22 reduction, according to county figures.
The budget contains total revenue of about $174 million and $173.4 million in total expenditures, Corbid said.
Both Corbid and County Administrator Molly  O’Rourke both said the proposed 2013 budget follows principles set by the board.
“It’s a sound budget that meets the priorities set by the County Board,” O’Rourke said.
Corbid added that the 2013 budget maintains the county’s low tax rate, per capita levy, tax on a $200,000 home and triple-A bond ratings.
County expenditures are up 2.2 percent in the 2013 budget, due to new labor contracts with employee groups, Corbid said. He added that overall expenses and operating costs have been fairly steady in the last five years.
“We are serving more people and using less money to do so,” he said.
Corbid stressed during his presentation that although the 2013 budget includes money for “critical new staff positions,” only 10.5 new positions are in the proposal.
“Not all department requests for new staff or programs were approved,” he said. More than $2.3 million in requests were not in the 2013 budget, he added.
“Each of these items were reasonable requests,” Corbid said.
Among the few new positions in the proposal are two eligibility specialists, two social workers and one family service worker in Department of Community Services. Corbid said a dramatic rise in both health care and food support cases justifies the need for additional personnel to process applications.
Corbid also warned commissioners that uncertainty remains about how much state aid the county will receive next year. He said from 2010 through this year, the county received $5.5 million in state aid, forcing the county to make mid-year and year-end budget cuts.
But Corbid noted that the county’s increasing population could have a positive impact on aid received under the state formula. He added, however, that he does not expect the county to receive all the state aid it is due under the state formula.
“There is a strong likelihood the county will not receive this aid,” he said. “Secondly, there are some counties that want to see the formula changed.”
In a second, brief presentation, Corbid outlined the Internal Services Department proposed budget. The department is composed of county administration, accounting and finance, human resources and information technology.
Corbid said no new positions are recommended, despite several major projects in several offices. Those projects include spending $400,000 on two core switches critical to the county’s IT network; a countywide citizen survey as part of the State Standard Measures program, and launch of a new county website in early winter.
Over the next month, individual county departments will meet with the County Board and go over each department’s budget. Commissioners set the preliminary 2013 levy Sept. 11; hold a Dec. 6 public hearing on the budget and adopt a final budget Dec. 11.
“I think they brought forward a very solid budget,” said District 3 Commissioner Gary Kriesel. “Our department heads get it. They know where the economy is.”