Many Washington County residents could save money on their tax bills in 2013 after the County Board voted last week for no increase to the property tax levy.

The flat levy -- considered preliminary until the final vote in December -- represents the wishes of commissioners to hold the line on costs. The board also approved operating expenses of $142.9 million for the coming year, about $3.5 million lower than in 2009.

For the owner of a typical $250,000 house, county taxes could drop $22 next year. That assumes an 8 percent value reduction from 2012 to 2013, said Kevin Corbid, the county's budget director.

Washington County's portion of a property tax bill runs about 24 percent. Cities, townships and school districts assess the remainder.

"We are serving more people than in the past and are spending less money to provide those services," Corbid told commissioners. If the preliminary budget stands, the county will spend about $594 per resident in 2013, compared with $618 per resident in 2009.

The county's population has grown substantially in recent years, placing more demands on county services that include roads and bridges, social programs, the sheriff's office, community corrections and the county attorney's office. The county also funds libraries.

The preliminary budget, which commissioners approved 5-0, includes a net tax levy for 2013 of $86.1 million. That's unchanged from 2012.

A projected 2.2 percent increase in spending would result in part from restoring about 52 library hours a week, Corbid said.

Other added costs include union contract settlements among the 1,079 county employees. None will get a cost of living increase, but most will receive a 1.5 percent step salary increase. A few new positions will be added in the public health and community services departments to administer new programs. Most of the new jobs will be funded with federal and state grants, Corbid said.

Commissioners will cast their final budget vote in December. By law, they can decrease the tax levy but can't increase it.