washington county

The latest version of the Washington County 2020 general fund budget is more than a half-million dollars bigger than the preliminary one, but commission Chairman Larry Maggi said there will be no property tax increase in next year’s bills.

What is known as the “posted” budget weighs in at $98,846,657. The 30-page document includes wage increases taking effect in 2020, plus a 5% increase in the cost of health insurance by Highmark, the county’s provider.

Maggi called the 2020 budget “a work in progress.”

“We can assure you there will be no increase in county (property) taxes this year,” he added. “We are good stewards of finances. The budget is going to be pared down. There will be cuts made from some budget items.”

Washington County property taxes are 2.43 mills.

The board of commissioners is scheduled to adopt a budget at 10 a.m. Dec. 19 at its final meeting of the year.

“We’re kind of going through the next two weeks, fine-tuning revenue and expenses we can decrease, looking for areas where I can be a little more conservative,” said Joshua Hatfield, Washington County finance director, Thursday.

On the revenue side, Hatfield said he’ll be updating the county’s income from its natural gas leases to come up with the latest projection. He has budgeted $2,051,500, a decrease from 2018’s $2.7 million.

The posted budget is available for inspection in the commissioners’ office on the seventh floor of the Courthouse Square office building.

At their meeting Thursday, the commissioners approved a $68,000 special budget for the Children and Youth Services agency for supportive client services and expenses that are child-specific and for recruitment and retention of families, ancillary court costs, plus costs of meetings and recognition events. No county funds are required for these items, according to the agenda. Also approved were $1,020,000 for Children and Youth-related provider service agreements.

In the posted budget, the CYS expenditures for 2020 are projected to be $25.2 million, but 80% of the CYS budget is funded by state and federal taxpayers.

One area that saw a jump in allocations was Common Pleas Court, up by 17%. Hatfield said this was because of the addition of the seventh judge to the bench. Although Judge Traci McDonald Kemp’s salary and benefits are borne by state taxpayers, the office staff salaries, totaling $134,193 for a secretary, law clerk and court crier, not including benefits, are paid by county taxpayers.

The county’s last property tax increase was enacted in 2009 for 2010 bills, but a simultaneous court case resulted in a countywide property reassessment that took effect in 2017.

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