The first significant Washington County property tax increase in years will be presented for review Tuesday during a public hearing in Stillwater.
As it now stands, the 2016 budget calls for a 3.49 percent increase in the county's net tax levy, proposed at $92.8 million. The increase would follow a similar bump last year and, before that, years of cuts and flat budgets that accompanied and followed a recession.
Tuesday's hearing will be held at 6 p.m. in the fifth floor boardroom at the Washington County Government Center.
Commissioners gave preliminary approval to the 2016 budget in September. The county's budget director, Kevin Corbid, told commissioners then that "the county has a cautious approach to adding new staff," but said more public demand for services, along with new labor agreements and other personnel costs, spurred the proposed addition of 16 jobs in county offices.
Twelve of those jobs would be paid through levy funding, he said.
Washington County has struggled in recent years to retain workers at competitive metro wages in part because many county employees didn't receive pay raises during the recession.
On another budget issue, Corbid said the county will receive less program aid — money the state commits to help pay for services it requires — in part because of a funding formula that takes into account its expanding tax base.
Highlights of the 2016 budget include purchasing a new computer security system for the county jail. The contract with Stanley Convergent Security Solutions Inc., will replace a 23-year-old security system that operates doors, lights, radios, water flow and electronic monitoring.
Also, more hours will be added to the county's Environmental Center in Woodbury, where recycling is collected.
The proposed tax increase includes a levy of about $1 million to fund the voter-approved Land and Water Legacy Program, which preserves natural open spaces and water quality.
Next year's proposed total operating expenses, excluding capital costs and debt, stand at $156.7 million, while money budgeted for capital improvements would increase by 7.9 percent.
County budgets don't include city taxes, school levies and special assessments.