NEWSBRIEF: County Board continues review of 2020 budget

The Washington County Board of Commissioners continued to review the county’s 2020 budget at workshops Aug. 20.

The board received its first overview of the county’s 2020 budget at a workshop Aug. 13.

The board will review the budget through September, with individual departments presenting more detailed recommended budgets at workshops. A public hearing on the budget will be the evening of Dec. 3, before the final budget is adopted Dec. 10.

The recommended budget reflects the continued population growth in the county, which is now the third fastest growing county in the state, growing at an annual rate of 1.8%. Increased population requires additional road improvements, increased county services and buildings in which to house those services. More people also puts demands on recreational opportunities in county parks and services at county libraries.

The property tax levy, which will be set Sept. 24, is recommended to increase by 5.94% and would translate into a 2.3% decrease in the county’s tax rate. This would be the sixth time in the last seven years that the county tax rate would fall. Once the county board sets the levy, it may lower it but it cannot raise it in the final budget.

Should the recommended levy be approved, the impact on the owner of a median-valued home in the county, which is $295,200, would be an increase of $37 a year in county taxes.

The County Board reviewed recommended budgets for the attorney’s office, the Department of Community Corrections, and the sheriff’s office Aug. 20.

The Washington County Attorney’s Office has 53 staff members in the criminal, civil and juvenile divisions, as well as six administrative staff members.

The office’s $7.2 million budget receives its funds primarily from the county property tax levy, and the major expenditure is personnel; other expenditures are for services and charges, materials and supplies.

The office’s emphasis is on preventing crime through police training and community outreach. The number of complaints issued by the office is almost 1,300 a year, a trend that was carried out in the previous two years. While the number of referrals to the office have slowed, the complexity of the cases grows, with one case last year having 300 to 400 victims, with a growing number of complex and sophisticated racketeering cases.

Initiatives for 2020 in the county attorney’s office include continuing to educate regarding human trafficking; continuing to work on keeping children safe; continued enhancement of office technology; and closely monitoring the drug diversion program to address the ongoing opioid and methamphetamine crises

The Community Corrections Department is recommended to have a $12.3 million budget, two-thirds of which is paid for with property tax levy dollars. The rest is paid for with state funds and fees. Three-quarters of the costs for the department are for wages and benefits.

The department serves adults and juveniles. About 75 staff members serve more than 12,400 clients with probation and parole supervision, and criminal diversion programs. The number of adult cases is rising, with an increase in pre-trial supervision, and in response to the impact of the opioid crisis. Fourteen staff members serve about 1,000 juvenile clients.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is recommended to have a $37.8 million budget. That includes funds for two additional correctional officers, the increase of a half-time deputy position to full-time to patrol the county’s parks, and money to conduct training that is required by the state.

The sheriff’s office emphasizes community engagement. Initiatives for 2020 include a focus on crimes against the elderly; drug take-back programs and supporting the Drug Enforcement Agency task force; impaired and distracted driving; jail programing; and the human trafficking unit partnership with the county attorney’s office.

For questions or more information, contact Kevin Corbid, Deputy Administrator, at 651-430-6003.

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