NEWSBRIEF: Washington County Board continues review of 2020 budget

The Washington County Board of Commissioners continued to review the county’s 2020 budget at workshops Sept. 3.

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 place 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%, which 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 the median-valued home in the county, which is $295,200, would be an increase of $37 a year in county taxes.

 

Departments

The board reviewed budgets for the Property Records and Taxpayer Services and the Library and Law Library Sept. 3. The board has reviewed budgets from other departments at previous board meetings. Materials from those meetings are available on the county website at www.co.washington.mn.us, by searching “budget.”

The Department of Property Records and Taxpayer Services works with state and federal agencies to provide services at license centers, such as drivers licenses and passports, and oversees the county’s election process. It also oversees property value assessment and providing property tax bills to property owners.

About a third of the department’s revenue is from the county’s property tax levy, with other funding coming from fees charged for assessing property, providing licensing and vital records, and filing property records. More than 80% of the department’s expenditures are for the department’s 106 employees. The department is recommending expenditures of $11,322,400 for 2020.

Working with the state’s Minnesota Licensing and Registration, or MNLARS, has required more employees in the department during the past two years, as the work time for each transition has grown. In addition, Minnesota is adding REAL ID, which will also add to the workload of the department.

The department also oversees elections, and next year, in addition to a primary election in August and a presidential election in November, the state will have a presidential nominating primary in March, adding to the workload. In addition to managing the elections, the county also provides early voting in five locations, which must be managed.

More of the county’s property records are being recorded electronically each year, which requires funding from the department’s technology fund to ensure the technology systems for storage and retrieval of images are up to date. Services that are being managed online are the homestead exclusion program, among other online applications.

The department manages the billing for property taxes owed on 113,000 parcels of property in the county, and works with 56 tax authorities in the county. Of the property taxes collected, 20% are billed to Washington County. 

 

Library

The library’s recommended expenditures for 2020 are $8,560,400, two-thirds of which will be used for personnel. Materials and supplies are recommended to cost $1.2 million, with services and charges recommended to cost $1.5 million. More than 90% of the library’s revenue is from the county’s property tax levy.

The library has worked to create partnerships across the county, such as working with Public Health and Environment on early literacy and fix-it clinics, with CareerForce for job fairs, and with Show Your Library Card as a partnership with local businesses. Community engagement has occurred at storytimes at events throughout the county, at senior programs at senior living communities, and with participation at community events.

The library is also engaged in rebuilding the Wildwood Library in Mahtomedi, and remodeling and expanding Valley Library in Lakeland. The library is also upgrading equipment used for handling materials and self-checkout, as well as updating meeting rooms at R.H. Stafford and Hardwood Creek libraries.

The county’s law library recommended budget has $311,500 in revenue, with less than 20% coming from levy, and the rest from court fees and fines. Of recommended expenditures, just less than 40% is for personnel, and 40% is for materials and supplies, with the rest to pay for services and charges.

Kevin Corbid, deputy administrator, is the main contact for related questions. He can be reached at 651-430-6003.

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