Washington County Approves Budget, Without Tax Hikes

The Washington County Board of Commissioners approved a $221.7 million operating budget, which includes $2.4 million in revenue from a new speed camera program.  The commissioners also approved the almost $40.5 million capital budget, as well as increases to water and sewer rates, which amount to a 3.5 percent increase in quarterly bills for the average residential customer. The budget includes no tax increases, and a five percent cost of living increase for employees. The total budgets, including operating, capital and enterprise funds, are $315.5 million – a 4.98 percent increase or almost $15 million more than the current fiscal year.

Herald-Mail Media reports:

Chief Financial Officer Debra Murray has said the speed cameras could generate more than $2.4 million in the first year.

But the more conservative figure was used in the budget for baseline purposes because speed-camera revenue usually drops off in future years after drivers learn the locations of the devices.

A lot of work still has to be done before speed cameras are put in place, county Sheriff Doug Mullendore said in a text message to Herald-Mail Media.

An ordinance is required by state law before the cameras can be installed by a law-enforcement agency, he said. …

Without the speed-camera revenue, several capital projects would have had to be cut from the budget, Murray said.

The commissioners agreed to a 5 percent cost-of-living increase for employees but asked that the remaining funding of the originally proposed 15 percent increase be put in reserve so they could review the results of an ongoing salary study.

Murray said the wage reserve was reduced not only by the cost increases but because the commissioners didn’t agree to shift some health care costs to employees — a move that was part of the original pitch for 15 percent raises.

The commissioners did not change the income-tax rate of 2.8 percent or the property-tax rate of 94.8 cents per $100 of assessed value. Both have remained the same for 18 years.