Board approves ’12 budget; spending down 4 percentThe Washington County Board last week approved a $166.9 million 2012 budget that cuts spending by roughly 4 percent and asks for fewer dollars from county property taxpayers.
By: Jon Avise, Woodbury Bulletin
The Washington County Board last week approved a $166.9 million 2012 budget that cuts spending by roughly 4 percent and asks for fewer dollars from county property taxpayers.
Board Chair Gary Kriesel, whose district includes Afton and Stillwater, called it “a good budget that reflects the nature of the economy that we’re all experiencing.”
Under the budget approved by commissioners on a 4-1 vote, funding to the county’s library system will decrease, shifting county-administered library services in Newport and Marine on St. Croix from brick-and-mortar libraries to a computerized book locker system and eliminating Sunday and Monday hours at all other branches.
Commissioner Lisa Weik, who represents most of Woodbury on the board, voted against the budget; she supported the $86.5 million property tax levy.
Weik said she wants to cut some of the county’s lobbying costs, saying commissioners are more effective lobbying in person at the state Capitol than through lobbyists that she called “duplicative.”
She proposed redirecting $60,000 in savings to cover the cost of restoring Sunday and Monday hours at two of the county’s busiest library branches. She called those cuts “an unnecessary hardship” and “a quality of life issue.”
“Speaking on behalf of my district, we do value libraries over lobbyists,” Weik said.
Kriesel disagreed with the proposal, saying he would consider the funding shift to save library hours an earmark. “That’s not a precedent I’m sure I’m comfortable with,” he said.
Despite cuts in county spending in 2012, the budget approved last week includes pay raises for two top county officials.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput will receive an increase of 3 percent in 2012, to $131,840; Sheriff Bill Hutton will see his salary rise to $132,600, a 2 percent increase.
Orput’s salary is more than $5,000 below the metro-area average for county attorneys and Hutton’s is nearly $4,000 more than the average Twin Cities county sheriff.
Salaries for other county department heads remained the same — including for the county administrator position that retiring Jim Schug will vacate next month. The administrator’s salary will remain at $150,065.
The county will negotiate a new salary with Schug’s replacement. Commissioners have said that will be an internal hire.
Board members voted to leave their salaries at $52,713 for 2012.