Washington County commissioners approved a new $116.7 million county budget this week that includes a $34.7 million general fund and an across-the-board 2-percent raise for all full-time employees.
The new budget also includes more than $300,000 to cover the costs of having 25 county commissioners.
As we’ve noted in this space several times before, redistricting this year has been a squandered opportunity for commissioners to address an issue that has been on the minds of voters for quite some time now. While campaigning for their seats in 2010, commissioners heard from many county residents who wanted to see the board’s number dramatically reduced. The last time commissioners had an opportunity to cull their numbers in 2001 they went the other way — adding another member to the board, much to the chagrin of many county residents.
There was even talk this year about adding another member. In the end, commissioners finally decided to keep their ranks the same. That’s 25 members who get paid a monthly salary of $375 for their public service. That represents an annual cost of $112,500 to county taxpayers. Taxpayers also paid another $130,340 last year to subsidize the insurance costs of 12 commissioners covered under the county’s insurance plan.
The new 2013 budget includes $294,000 to cover the salary and health care costs of county commissioners. Another $7,345 has been budgeted for their membership fees and other incidentals.
But the question remains: Does Washington County really need 25 county commissioners? It seems to us commissioners could help lessen the tax burden on county taxpayers by reducing their numbers.
That was certainly what commissioners in Johnson County determined back in 2001 when the board voted to reduce its number from 25 to 15.
Commissioners there had vowed to support a reduction in the number of members on the board when they ran for election in 1998. And guess what? They lived up to their campaign promises.
They also agreed this year to remain at 15 commissioners — a decision that continues to please taxpayers in Johnson County.