Commissioners approve 2014 Washington County budget

County roads, libraries to receive key funding

Washington County residents could see some big improvements next year on the road, in the parks and at the government center, thanks to key budget allocations for 2014.

County commissioners voted Sept. 10 to approve the proposed $147.4 million 2014 operating budget and $23.1 million capital expenditures budget. The board now has until December to adjust the budget and levy, although the amount of the levy cannot be raised, only lowered.

The 2014 property-tax levy is set at $86.7 million, a .66 percent increase from last year. State law allows the levy to be raised by 1.1 percent each year. This will be Washington County’s first levy increase in four years, according to a release from the county.

Included in the board actions taken is an additional $1 million levy for Land and Water Legacy programs, a voter-approved $20 million bond referendum fund which is used to purchase lands to improve water quality of rivers, lakes and streams, protect drinking water resources and preserve wetlands and woodlands, among other initiatives.

Overall, the county’s portion of property taxes is expected to decrease by more than 4 percent. A home valued at the county-wide average of $207,000 should see the county’s property taxes decrease by $4.

Changes made during the 2013 state legislative session will bring the county $9 million in state aid, a $2 million increase from 2012. The additional funding will help pay for state-mandated programs, Washington County officials say.

Key initiatives in the 2014 budget include expanding hours at Hardwood Creek Library in Cottage Grove, even-year election costs and increased funding for county road pavement restoration projects. Other initiatives include improvements at the popular Lake Elmo Park Reserve manmade swimming pond, Sheriff’s Department fleet replacement and a new human resources information system.

Washington County will also add several new staff members to a number of departments including sheriff’s deputies, nurses at the Washington County Jail and staff to implement the MnChoices project, which assesses services for seniors and people with disabilities.

The Washington County Board will hold a formal public hearing for the property-tax levy at 6 p.m. Dec. 3 before the budget and levy are officially approved during the regular county board meeting Dec. 17.

For more information, visit www.co.washington.mn.us.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.
 

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