The Washington County Board has approved the county’s 2014 budget and levy, which calls for a $148.2 million operating budget and $22.4 million in capital expenditures.
The board gave the budget and levy initial approval in September, and by state law has until December to cast a final vote.
The budget includes a tax levy that will result in the owner of a home valued at $207,000 — one that increased in value by 2.4 percent from last year, the countywide average for residential property — seeing a decrease of $4 in the county’s portion of the property tax paid in 2014. The County Board also made the decision to reduce the County Environmental Charge from 37.5 percent to 35 percent, which will go into effect in April, saving property owners a cumulative $440,000 a year.
The budget has a property tax levy of $87.7 million, a 0.66 percent increase from 2013 for the county’s levy, and a 0.72 percent increase that will be devoted to the voter-approved Land and Water Legacy Program. The tax rate is projected to decline by more than 4 percent.
The property tax levy increase is the first in the county in four years. In those years, commissioners said their constituents didn’t want any tax increases.
Met Council grants help with park upgrades
The Washington County Board reached an agreement with the Metropolitan Council on Dec. 17 to fund upgrades to Lake Elmo Park Reserve and the Hardwood Creek Trail.
Grant money from the Metropolitan Council is part of the budgeted revenue sources for these projects that are in the Washington County capital program for 2014.
At the Lake Elmo Park Reserve, Phase I of an improvement to the park’s swim pond will provide parking, buildings and other improvements to the park. A Metropolitan Council grant for $776,000 from the state parks and trails fund, funded by sales taxes, will pay for part of the project. The total project budget is $1,676,000.
Work planned for the Hardwood Creek Regional Trail involves the construction and repair of the bituminous surface of the regional trail. The project will extend the trail south to 140th Street, along the Regional Rail Authority Corridor. A Metropolitan Council grant for $45,000 from the state parks and trails fund will pay for the project.
Electronic medical records replace paper system at jail
The Washington County Board has approved an electronic medical records system for the county’s jail. State law requires that all hospitals and health care providers have such a system in place by Jan. 1, 2015.
The current paper-based medical record system used in the jail medical unit is not adequate, the county said. In addition to the cost of maintaining and storing paper medical records, county health care providers are unable to quickly find patient information.
The new system should decrease staff time spent creating, pulling, managing, transmitting and storing paper records; help avoid medication and treatment errors due to illegible or misinterpreted handwriting; help avoid duplicate laboratory, radiology and other tests which increase costs; and standardize patient health and performance measurement data. The current paper records also require extensive storage space.
The county will buy NextGen’s Ambulatory Electronic Health Record and Practice Management Software. The project budget of $238,000 includes expenses for software purchases, system interfaces, implementation, staff training and a project management consultant.