Proposed budget adds more employees for growing demands
The next Washington County budget proposes to add more than 80 employees to keep up with the needs of a population that just broke the 600,000 mark.
The $1.4 billion budget for the year starting July 1 — about a quarter of it from the tax-dependent general fund — will support just under 2,200 full-time employees.
"That continues to reflect our growing and diverse community," County Administrator Robert Davis said at a May 9 presentation to the budget committee, which consists of the five elected commissioners and five appointed public members.
Official 2018 estimates now peg Washington County at 610,000, second to Multnomah County.
This year there are three new commissioners — the biggest shift on the board in almost 25 years — and two new public members of the budget committee.
Public testimony on the budget will be heard at 7:45 p.m. Thursday, May 30, in the auditorium of the Public Services Building, 155 N. 1st Ave., Hillsboro. Once the budget committee recommends a spending plan, county commissioners will have a second hearing on June 18 before adopting it.
The budget makes no changes in property tax rates, which are $2.25 per $1,000 of taxable value for county government, plus 42 cents per $1,000 for public safety and 22 cents per $1,000 for libraries. The pair of local-option levies will be in their fourth year; voters will soon decide future five-year levies.
Residents in urban unincorporated communities also pay separate levies for sheriff's patrols and road maintenance. Budgets for those special districts were scheduled for presentation May 14.
The county general fund, which depends largely on property taxes and supports an array of services, accounts for just 23% of the total budget at $317 million. Other funds — including state and federal grants, user fees, and shares of fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, all restricted by law — account for $1.1 billion.
"There are times I live with this spreadsheet every day," said Jack Liang, who is in his first year as the county's chief financial officer.
Among the new spending proposed:
• More for the jail, including a sergeant and four technicians, to reduce forced overtime and allow deputies to concentrate on inmate safety and security.
• More for the Public Safety Training Center, which is scheduled to open soon in southwest Hillsboro and will be run by the sheriff. Other police agencies will share in its use.
• More for the district attorney to support specialty courts, specifically the Veterans Treatment Court. The DA also is forming a new team focused on domestic violence. Juvenile and community corrections also will get new positions.
• More to help people with developmental disabilities, stemming from increased staff workloads and a state expansion of who is eligible for services. The budget also adds money for mental health and services to children.
• More for public health staffing and housing, the latter resulting from the county's share of the regional housing bond that Metro voters approved last year.
• About $2 million is set aside for new priorities by the commissioners.
The county expects to complete a seismic upgrade of the Charles D. Cameron Public Services Building this year, clearing the way for similar work on the Walnut Street Center in Hillsboro. The proposed budget contains money to complete design and engineering for the latter project.
The 89,000-square-foot Event Center at the Washington County Fair Complex is scheduled for completion in 2020.
Increases in member government contribution rates to Oregon's public-pension fund, known as the Public Employees Retirement System, will cost Washington County $9 million in the coming budget. Increases are projected by PERS in the next pair of two-year state budget cycles.
The proposed Washington County budget would combine an existing $6.8 million in a PERS reserve with an $8.2 million transfer from the general fund to create a "side account," money set aside to offset future pension liabilities. The total is intended to boost returns on investments.
For a link to the official Washington County budget summary for 2019-20, click below. You can also find more detail on the county webpage.
For a link to the May 9 presentation: