2014-15 County Budget
For Immediate Release Tuesday, May 13, 2014
County Budget Proposal Shows Initial Steps Toward Reinvestment
A somewhat improved economy and cautious steps toward organizational reinvestment are reflected in Washington County’s proposed $811.3 million all-funds budget released today, representing an 8 percent increase over last year’s budget. Revenue available in the county’s general fund would be $227.6 million, a 7 percent increase over last year.
The proposal comes after eight years of recession and cost cutting when the county postponed hiring in many cases, implemented health care cost sharing with employees, deferred maintenance and repair of buildings, technology and other systems and restricted discretionary spending.
Revenues supporting county operations grew modestly over the last year, according to the budget document. Property and other taxes increased by 5 percent compared with 2013-14. This single revenue category supports two-thirds of the county’s general fund, the main portion of the budget over which the Board of County Commissioners has discretionary authority.
Revenue related to development and construction activity has rebounded significantly relative to prior years, including a 29 percent increase in funds from building permits, for example. These dedicated revenue sources support special funds in the budget and can only be used for specific purposes.
“Although not completely ‘out of the woods,’ there are signs of an economic recovery occurring in Washington County,” County Administrator Robert Davis wrote in the opening pages of the proposed budget document. “While this upswing is encouraging, the county is taking a cautious path forward, as additional years of sustained revenue growth will be required to address the impacts of the sustained decline.”
On the expenditure side, the proposed budget focuses on a number of areas, including:
- Maintaining general fund reserves above a minimum threshold of 20 percent of general fund revenues;
- Addressing building maintenance and repair, upgrading technology systems and supporting technical and administrative staff positions in Human Resources, Facilities Management, Information Technology Services and Emergency Management;
- Maintaining competitive compensation among staff and reinvesting in skills training;
- Continuing the general fund commitment to the Major Streets Transportation and Improvement Program (MSTIP) and Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS); and
- Supporting strategic planning efforts to better meet present and future service demands, including strengthened mental health collaboration between Health and Human Services and Public Safety and Justice.
Washington County’s proposed 2014-15 budget is also notable for its absence of general obligation bond (GO) debt payments. A final payment was made last year on $77 million in GO bonds approved by voters in 1994 and first issued in 1998 to pay for the county’s Jail, Law Enforcement Center and Parking Structure. The county has earned a bond rating of Aaa1 with Moody’s and AA+ with Standard & Poor’s municipal rating services, reflecting a high degree of confidence in the organization’s fiscal stability.
Next steps for the budget process include a public hearing before the Budget Committee at 8:30 a.m. on May 22 in the Shirley Huffman Auditorium, Charles D. Cameron Public Services Building, 155 North First Avenue, Hillsboro. Members of the public wishing to testify about the proposed budget may do so at 10:30 a.m.
The Washington County government organization has a mission of providing excellent and cost-effective services that support healthy, peaceful safe and sustainable communities; and encouraging meaningful participation in community activities and County governance. The organization is comprised of 1,779 full-time equivalent employees.
Media Contact:Philip Bransford, Communications Officer