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Commissioners look for ways to scale back tax hike

April 30, 1997


Staff Writer

One day after voting for a $3 million tax hike, the Washington County Commissioners Tuesday discussed ways to minimize the increase.

County Finance Director Debra Bastian said the working county budget would, with the tax increase, be about $100,000 away from being balanced.

Commissioner James R. Wade said the commissioners should seek ways to cut expenses with an eye to cutting the tax increase to $2.5 million.


The commissioners voted 3-1 Monday to raise the property tax by 10 cents and the piggyback income tax rate from 50 percent to 54 percent. The tax hike will not go into effect until final budget approval, which will follow a May 14 public hearing.

Wade said the commissioners should consider paring a planned 4 percent pay raise for county workers, staggering implementation of a 40-hour work week, holding fire and rescue funding at this year's level, and cutting capital projects.

Wade also said the commissioners might be able to spend some of a $1 million surplus projected for this year. Bastian has recommended that the surplus be used to build up county reserves.

Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers asked County Administrator Rodney Shoop if county employees are leaving because of low salaries.

"What is the county (employee) turnover rate that has alarmed us to make some of these changes?" Bowers asked. Shoop said he would get back to the commissioners with a breakdown of employee turnover rates.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Vice President John S. Shank have expressed reservations about a 4 percent pay raise, which would cost about $525,000. It would follow a $500 bonus, $500 increase in salary and 2 percent pay raise implemented in December and January.

The commissioners accepted in principle Tuesday a study that recommended the pay hikes but did not decide on a pay raise. The study would tie pay increases to merit ratings starting in fiscal 1999.

The county working budget also includes about $600,000 for 18 new full-time positions and two new part-time positions. The largest portion of that, $365,913, would pay for 12 additional deputies at the Washington County Detention Center. Seven deputies would be hired July 1 and five deputies Jan. 1, 1998. The sheriff had asked for 22 additional deputies because of increases in the inmate population.

The budget situation is related to a planned $3.7 million subsidization of the Water and Sewer Department, an increase of $1 million over this year's figure.

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