Washington County closer to a new budget

Robert Houk • Jun 4, 2019 at 8:38 PM

Washington County officials are putting the final touches on a new $42 million general fund budget that is balanced with spending cuts and reserve funds.

The proposed 2019-20 budget also includes $345,000 to cover 2% pay raises for courthouse employees.

The Washington County Budget Committee voted Tuesday to include similar pay increases for other county employees who are covered in the solid waste budget.

Meanwhile, county officials are waiting for a revised budget from county schools. The last budget submitted by the school system was nearly $1 million out of balance.

Mitch Meredith, the county’s director of finance and administration, said the new general fund budget contains “no glaring increases” to operating expenses. He said officeholders have “made every effort to reduce costs.”

 At the same time, a projected 1 percent growth in property tax revenues has forced the county to dip into its $17.5 million general fund reserves to balance the new budget.

Meredith said that will still leave Washington County with $1.11 million more than the minimum $14.09 million it is obligated to keep in reserves.

Spending in the proposed new general fund budget is nearly $500,000 less than that of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said he has worked closely with courthouse officials to find cost savings in the new budget. That includes working with the sheriff’s office, the district attorney general and Sessions Court judges to find ways to reduce the jail population.

He said the county is exploring cost-effective alternatives to housing non-dangerous offenders in the Washington County Detention Center.

Grandy said Washington County’s current 3 percent unemployment rate was making it difficult for county government to attract and keep employees.

“We have needs in many positions,” the mayor said.

County Commissioner Freddie Malone told his colleagues on the Budget Committee they are often powerless when it comes to making deeper cuts to spending.

“We are really working around the edges,” he said. “There is so much in the budget we can’t impact.”

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