County’s budget shrinks by 6%

The Washington County Commission passed a budget resolution Friday that shrinks spending by more than $1 million, a 6 percent reduction from the actual expenditures from 2017.

Although revenues are expected to be up slightly, the commissioners reduced the amount of “carryover” — the remainder from the previous year — from $1,766,050 in 2017 to $561,461 for the coming year.

Commission president Ron Feathers said the budget was the result of months of working with county departments to reduce expenses, and he commended department leaders for their cooperation. He said most were asked to cut 10 percent of expenses.

“It’s a balanced budget, and that wouldn’t have happened without the help of the department heads,” commissioner Rick Walters said.

The revenue forecast, compiled by Washington County Auditor Bill McFarland, shows a 2.44 percent decline in sales tax, Feathers said, although that could be pessimistic.

“Part of our job is to go around talking to business owners, and since October they’ve been telling us that things are starting to turn around,” he said.

Feathers said the county’s allocation to townships and to the county engineering department remained at the same percentage of the budget as last year, with the roads allocation around $350,000 out of the $2,277,341 total.

“Times are tough, but we recognize that infrastructure is important to our citizens,” Feathers said.

Overall, Walters said, the final budget represents a reduction of $3 million from the original requests from the departments.

Courts, the prosecutor’s office, the sheriff’s office, the jail and the juvenile center account for about 48 percent of expenditures, the commissioners said.

Other strains on the budget include a 9.8 percent increase in health insurance premiums and the anticipated loss of the Medicaid sales tax, a reduction in revenue of $827,000. The commission expects to be able to provide county employees with a nominal pay change, according to a fact sheet on the appropriations.

One major expense lurking in the new year might be voting machines, which the commission said could cost the county up to $1 million but does not appear in the budget. Feathers said new voting equipment has been mandated for the 2020 presidential election, but it probably will need to be purchased this year to get the bugs worked out because the 2019 election will not have a lot on the ballot.

“We hope to get something from the legislature for this,” commissioner David White said.

“It’s a tight and skinny budget,” Feathers said.

“We’re praying for an upturn,” White added.

At a glance

Washington County Commission budget highlights for 2018

¯ Projected revenues: $15,080,412.

¯ Projected expenses: $15,641,873.

¯ Balance to carry over: $561,461.

¯ Spending change from 2017: 6.2 percent.

Source: Washington County Commission.