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Public hearing set Friday on new county budget

Robert Houk • Jun 18, 2020 at 8:00 AM

Washington County officials will hear public comments Friday on a new $42.5 million general fund budget.

It will be the first such government gathering with the public in attendance since Washington County commissioners began meeting electronically in early March as a precaution against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The public hearing will begin Friday at 9 a.m. in Courtroom 7 of the George P. Jaynes Justice Center in Jonesborough. The County Commission is set to vote on the proposed budget at its regular meeting on Monday.

The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Social distancing and related pandemic guidelines will be observed at both county meetings. The meetings will also be streamed live on the county’s YouTube channel.

“I felt with this being a public hearing, we should do everything we can to do this face-to-face,” Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said Wednesday. “We will operate under the court’s protocols, since we are using its space. We feel like we can space people apart adequately.”

Commissioners were facing a $3.2 million deficit earlier this month when they met electronically in a budget workshop. The new budget was balanced after county officials approved a number of fund transfers to the revenue budget of the general fund.

Those transfers include $1 million from the general debt service fund, $750,000 from the general capital projects fund and $250,000 from the education capital projects fund.

As a result, the county’s Budget Committee members voted to restore $48,550 in previous cuts made to spending for volunteer fire departments. Budget officials have also agreed to include a 2% pay increase for county employees.

“I credit elected officials who responded in a cooperative way to get expenses down to last year’s figures,” Grandy said.