Retirement fund shortfall on radar in Washington County budget discussionsWashington County’s proposed 2013 budget would add staff next year and expand library hours but leaves overall spending and property tax levels identical to 2012.
Washington County’s proposed 2013 budget would add staff next year and expand library hours but leaves overall spending and property tax levels identical to 2012.
Washington County Board members got their first look last week at a preliminary budget that increases operating expenditures by 2.2 percent but leaves overall spending at $174.3 million by decreasing spending on road and bridge projects.
The budget also leaves property taxes the same as the 2012 budget, proposing an $86.1 million levy. If approved, it would mark the county’s third straight year of leaving its property tax levy flat.
County Administrator Molly O’Rourke described the budget as focused on providing core services to residents.
To help the county manage a rapidly increasing number of health care and food support cases — and to allow the county’s largest libraries to re-open on Mondays — the budget proposes to add 10.5 full-time equivalent employees. Since 2008, Washington County’s health care case load has increased by 41 percent and the number of residents on food support has increased by 105 percent.
That increase in spending is balanced by less county spending on construction projects in 2013, said Deputy County Administrator Kevin Corbid. County officials also proposed to utilize some of Washington County’s fund reserves to balance the budget, he said.
County commissioners will hear budget presentations from department leaders over the next month and are scheduled to set the county’s preliminary levy at a meeting Sept. 11. The board will adopt a 2013 budget following a public hearing on Dec. 6.
Retirement fund shortfall?
One budget issue commissioners will be forced to address in coming years is a growing funding gap in Washington County’s post-employment health benefits trust fund.
That fund is used to help cover health costs for retired employees who were hired before 2002 and meet other requirements like a minimum length of service with the county.
Corbid told commissioners last week that the fund’s projected interest earnings haven’t met projections, leaving the county with a roughly $8 million shortfall.
That isn’t a major concern, he said, but “it’s certainly an issue we need to keep an eye on.”
Closing the gap would mean making up the difference in projected and actual earnings with property tax levy dollars. Unless other costs are cut that would require an increase in the levy, something commissioners have been reluctant to do in recent years.