The Washington County Board of Commissioners certified the proposed budgets and levies for 2022 Sept. 14.
The proposed levies are: $122 million for the general levy; $660,000 for the Regional Railroad Authority levy and $5.68 million for the Community Development Agency
The board will continue to receive public comment on the proposed budgets and levies through their final adoption in December. Once the levies are certified, they may be reduced before final adoption, but they cannot be raised.
The Office of Administration presented the recommended 2022 county budget to the board in July, including the budget for the Washington County Regional Railroad Authority. The recommended budget includes an estimated 0.6% increase in the county tax rate, a 5.78% increase in net levy for the operations of Washington County, and a 0% levy change for both the Land & Water Legacy Program and the Washington County Re-gional Railroad Authority.
Through July and August, individual departments provided detailed presentations of their budgets and answered questions from commissioners during televised workshops, which were open to the public.
Because the County Board approved a levy with no increase for 2021, the increase in the county tax between 2020 and 2022 for those with median-valued homes in the county is estimated to be $5. Should the board approve the proposed levies in December, it is expected that the owners of a median-valued home in the county, which is valued at $318,700 for taxes paid in 2022, would pay an additional $30 in county property taxes in 2022, compared to 2021.
New funding in the budget will pay for negotiated salaries and benefits for existing employees. The recommended budget includes only a small number of new employees and few changes in the services or programs delivered. It is also designed to reduce the county’s reliance on debt for capital improvements.
The recommended budget includes investments in the county’s technology infrastructure. Other infrastructure planned includes a northern environmental center, money for road construction and pavement preservation, as well as restoration at the Historic Courthouse and park and trail improvements. The budget funds a fairly substantial increase in election costs for 2022 as more people vote absentee, which adds to the cost of managing an election. The budget also funds replacements in the public works fleet to ensure the ability to maintain and pro-vide snow removal on county roads.
The recommended budget is impacted by reduced revenue in a variety of areas, including reduced county program aid, a state aid provided to reduce the reliance on property taxes to fund mandated services, and reduced fees for services that have been impacted by the pandemic.
The County Board will approve a final budget for 2022 Dec. 14. An evening public budget meeting will occur at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30, in the Board Room of the Government Center in Stillwater, which will be open for public comment.
All budget documents are on the county website at www.co.washington.mn.us, by searching “budget,” and the budget workshops were webstreamed, and remain in the board meeting archives on the county website.