Washington County’s budget shows spending increase

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The Washington County commissioners have been known to refer to the first version of their annual budget as a “wish list” from department heads that is whittled down to a figure that taxpayers can stomach.


So it was unusual Friday when the second version of the county’s 2014 spending plan, known as the posted budget, showed an increase of $1,790,166, bringing total projected expenditures to $80,599,572.


County taxpayers will likely be pleased to learn that this atypical jump carries no increase in the property tax levy, which will remain at 24.9 mills.


Delving into the 95 pages of figures shows that the change is attributable to a rise in the Children and Youth Services budget, for which the department was able to secure an additional $2 million in revenue through a combination of state and federal grants.


While the county and nearly all of its departments follow a calendar year, CYS uses the state’s fiscal year, which begins July 1. The CYS budget for 2014 is $18,699,212. CYS is showing an increase of $1,664,637 in expenditures while revenue for the department went up $2,025,490.


The commissioners on Thursday approved a renewal of the an annual contract with Highmark Blue Cross-Blue Shield health insurance effective Jan. 1 that reflects a total increase of 10 percent, a figure that was not available when the preliminary budget was presented last month.


The county was told that its boost could be as high as 16 percent, but after the commissioners’ agenda meeting Wednesday, human resources director Charles Nicholls noted the number came down through negotiations.


Another, albeit smaller, rise occurred in the budget for courts. The $124,090 includes higher rentals for district judges’ offices.


The commissioners are expected to adopt the 2014 budget Dec. 19 at their final scheduled meeting of the year.


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