Washington Co. Commissioners OK $338.3 million budget

June 04, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

The Washington County Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve a $338.3 million budget for fiscal 2009.

Commissioner William J. Wivell voted against the budget, saying it included too much money for new programs and services.

Spending in fiscal 2009 will increase 10.5 percent, or $32.1 million, over this year.

Most of the increase will pay for one-time capital expenses and will not be used for baseline, recurring costs, County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said last month at a public hearing.

Capital spending will increase by $20 million, from $67 million this year to $87 million in fiscal 2009.

Excluding the increase for capital expenses, county spending will rise about 5 percent.

The county's general fund, which pays for most government services, including education and public safety, will increase by 5.8 percent, or $11.3 million, to $207 million.

Wivell said he does not agree with the commissioners' decision to fund 18 new life-support technicians in the Washington County Emergency Services Department.


Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said Tuesday he is "uncomfortable" with funding those positions as well as new personnel for the emergency communications system and the location of a temporary senior center.

But he said he would not refuse to support the budget for those reasons.

"I'm not going to vote against a $330 million budget over roughly $200,000 in spending I don't agree with," Aleshire said.

Wivell said the cost of new programs, funding for new nonprofits and other new expenditures in the fiscal 2009 budget totals "several million dollars" and is unnecessary in a tight budget year.

"The budget is always not perfect for everybody," Commissioner James F. Kercheval said. "But this one does a very good job of managing a lot of financial pressures we had to deal with this year."

The county will receive about $9.2 million less in state revenue in fiscal 2009 than it did this year, Debra Murray said.

The county's property tax rate will remain at 94.8 cents per $100 of assessed value in fiscal 2009. Tax bills will increase, however, as property assessments rise.

The budget and finance department is projecting $7.8 million in new property tax revenue in fiscal 2009.

Water rates will increase 3.7 percent and sewer rates will rise 3.6 percent for average residential customers - defined as those who use 12,000 gallons per quarter.

On average, the increases will cost water and sewer customers about $34.24 more per year.

The rate hikes are part of a long-term plan to pay off the county's water and sewer debt, which stands at about $29 million, according to budget documents.

The fiscal 2009 budget will pay for 63.5 new full-time equivalent positions, most of which will be for public safety workers such as police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

An emergency housing unit at the Washington County Detention Center will employ 11 new officers, and funding for Phase 2 of the Emergency Services Department's strategic plan includes money for 18 life-support technicians.

The county will borrow $12 million in fiscal 2009, down $8 million since budget talks began earlier this year.

How they voted

A yes vote was to approve a $338.3 million budget for fiscal 2009.

President John F. Barr-Yes

Vice President Terry L. Baker-Yes

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire-Yes

Commissioner James F. Kercheval-Yes

Commissioner William J. Wivell-No

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