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County approves 2017 budget

The Washington County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday passed the 2017 budget and property tax levy.

The $97.1 million levy is a  3.49 percent increase over 2016 collections. However, most taxpayers should pay less in the county portion of their property taxes, since the increase is offset by a 3 percent growth in the county’s tax base, which includes an estimated $363 million in new construction.

“I think this is a very sound budget that reflects a growing county, a diverse county,” said Commissioner Karla Bigham of Cottage Grove.

Residents were invited to comment on the plan at a Dec. 6 public meeting, but only one individual spoke, on an unrelated topic.

“The budget we present today is a fiscally sound budget that builds on the financial strength and stability of this organization,” County Administrator Molly O’Rourke said last week.

Commissioner Lisa Weik of Woodbury said Tuesday the county held the line on its portion of property taxes.

“It’s a stay-the-course budget, a stable budget ... it may have contributed to a lack of phone calls coming into my office,” Weik said.

During the public hearing, a separate room was set aside for residents who had questions or concerns about the taxable market value of their home. That value is used to calculate each homeowner’s share of the proposed levy. Proposed property tax notices were mailed last month. Seven county residents received assistance from staff.

Operating expenditures are expected to be $165.3 million next year, an increase of 5.46 percent, and capital expenditures are expected to be $28.3 million, an increase of 6.26 percent.

Transit study contract

The board on Dec. 6 approved a $158,986 contract with Nelson Nygaard to conduct a transit needs study in Washington County. The nine-month study will identify existing services and gaps for “transit-dependent’ residents, which include seniors, people with disabilities and low-income residents.They will formulate a plan based in part on talking to residents about their particular mobility needs and concerns.The county will pay for the Transit Needs Study with a $103,200 federal grant administered by the Metropolitan.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

(651) 459-7600
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