Washington County board approves $1.4 billion budget
Washington County has a budget for the year starting July 1.
County commissioners, in a series of swift motions Tuesday, June 18, approved a total spending plan of $1.4 billion that will support just under 2,200 employees. Additional amounts were approved for four special districts.
Official 2018 estimates now peg the county's population at 610,000, second to Multnomah County.
Board Chairwoman Kathryn Harrington moved the three May meetings of the budget committee — which consists of the elected commissioners and five appointed public members — from midday to early evening to allow for public presentations and comment.
No one spoke at the June 18 hearing, and commissioners ratified the recommended budgets.
Harrington thanked the county staff, which went to extra lengths to explain the 2019-20 budget proposals because she and two other commissioners are newly elected.
"There are no shortcuts in public finance," she said.
The budget for county government, plus four others for special districts governed by the county, leaves tax rates unchanged.
For county government, the rate is $2.25 per $1,000 of taxable property value, plus 42 cents per $1,000 for public safety and 22 cents per $1,000 for libraries. The pair of countywide local-option levies are in their fourth year; voters will soon decide future five-year levies.
For the Enhanced Sheriff's Patrol District, which covers urban unincorporated communities, the rate is $1.32 per $1,000, 68 cents of which is in a local-option levy that voters renewed in 2017. Residents of cities do not vote on that levy, which supports a budget of $44.7 million.
For the North Bethany County Service District, the rate is $1.25 per $1,000 to support a budget of $12.8 million for road maintenance.
For the Urban Road Maintenance District, which covers unincorporated communities, the rate is 24.6 cents per $1,000 to support a budget of $16.4 million.
For District Service Lighting No. 1, the budget is $3.1 million, raised from assessments paid by property owners.
Before the commissioners approved the budget, they heard from Red Wortham of Hillsboro, who is already running for sheriff in 2020.
She said even the budgeted addition of a sergeant and four nonuniformed jail technicians in the new budget will not alleviate problems in staffing the 472-bed jail.
"The problem is that we cannot attract and hire enough deputies for staffing the jail and our retention is suffering," said Wortham, who has spent her 17-year law enforcement career in the county. "Therefore, it is imperative that we stop allowing patrol to take first pick of new applicants that are interested in both patrol or corrections. It is imperative that we prioritize corrections higher to repair the damage that already will take upwards of two years to recover from. I cannot watch the jail smoulder any longer."
The budget committee approves spending plans for the sheriff, district attorney, justice of the peace and auditor as part of the overall budget, but they are elected separately.