Washington County plans a modest bump in its property tax collections in 2017.

The increase is included in the 2017 preliminary budget, which Washington County commissioners unanimously approved Sept. 13. The board proposed a property tax levy of $96.1 million, an increase of 3.49 percent over this year.

Most taxpayers will pay less in the county portion of their property taxes, however, since the increase is offset by a 3 percent growth in the county’s tax base, which includes an estimated $363 million in new construction.

Under the proposed levy increase, the owner of a home assessed at $243,200 - the median value in the county - would pay about $7 more in property taxes.

Now that the preliminary levy is set, it can be reduced but cannot increase. The board will vote on the final budget in December, after a period of public comment. Commissioners encouraged Washington County taxpayers to provide input on the proposed budget. There will be a 6 p.m. public hearing on the budget Dec. 6.

“I think this budget is sound and will meet our residents’ needs adequately,” said Commissioner Karla Bigham of Cottage Grove.

The board considered requests from various departments at a series of weekly budget workshops that began Aug. 9.

They include:


Public Works Director Don Theisen requested an increase in county park vehicle entry fees from $5 to $7 daily and from $25 to $30 annually. The increase would raise an estimated $230,000, which would pay for three new full-time positions, including a parks maintenance supervisor, office support worker and maintenance worker.


Community Services Director Dan Papin asked the board for funds to hire a full-time adult protection social worker to help respond to a 54 percent increase in adult elderly exploitation reports over a two-year period. He also requested three full-time social workers to handle increased assessments for MnChoices, a support program that helps disabled adults live independently, and one additional full-time social worker for a program called community alternative for disabled individuals, or CADI. Papin also requested the hiring of an administrative assistant to help process the spike in applications from MnSure, the state-run healthcare exchange. This position would be a mid-year hire.


The department will update the county’s Solid Waste Management Master Plan and continue transferring the Ramsey/Washington Recycling and Energy Center from private to public ownership and management. Director Lowell Johnson also requested $79,400 for a new full-time environmental specialist to conduct food and beverage inspections at restaurants, lodging, pools, campgrounds and non-community water establishments. They’ve seen a 65 percent uptick in licensed establishments, he said. Fees from those news establishments, as well as a 2 percent overall increase in licensing fees, will fund the new position.


The Library Systems’s budget recommendations focus on implementing the library’s strategic and facilities plan and investing in the library collection, equipment and staffing. There will also be a focus on library services for aging adults. Director Keith Ryskoski requested hiring a new full-time catalog librarian to reduce the wait time for getting new materials into circulation from six weeks to two.


The sheriff’s office is requesting $81,000 for a deputy patrol officer and $36,800 for a corrections officer, who would be hired in mid-2017.

The preliminary budget also includes a nearly $1.06 million levy for the Land and Water Program, with no change from 2016; a proposed property tax levy for the Washington County Regional Rail Authority of $776,800, and a proposed property tax levy for the Washington County Community Development Agency of $4.7 million.

The county projects operating costs to increase 5.26 percent or $165 million. Capital expenditures are projected at $28.5 million, an increase of 7.42 percent.