Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Commissioners vote to advance proposals to renew support for libraries and raise more money for crime-fighting efforts.

Washington County voters will decide local-option levies for public safety and the library system in the May 19 election.

County commissioners voted Tuesday, Jan. 28, to advance the property tax levies, which would take effect starting in mid-2020 for the 2020-21 budget year.

One would renew a five-year levy for the Washington County Cooperative Library System, which supports 16 libraries run by nine cities and three community groups. The proposed levy is 22 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value, unchanged from the current rate that has been in effect since 2016. Libraries get their operating money from this levy, the county general fund and city budgets.

The other would propose a higher five-year levy for support of the sheriff's office, district attorney, juvenile and community corrections supervision. Additional money would pay for enhanced efforts against child abuse and domestic violence, including assistance and emergency shelter for survivors of domestic violence.

The proposed rate is 47 cents per $1,000 of value, up from the current 42 cents. It falls between the minimum 45 cents that county officials said is required to maintain services because of increased costs and a proposal for 49 cents to raise more money for emergency shelters for youths and adults.

A majority of the board opted for 47 cents during a work session Jan. 14. Even at that level, it may face difficulty. Public opinion polling indicates that it would start with support from 51% of those sampled.

"We want to make sure that we continue to have a safe community that has the types of programs our community members need so that we have a balanced, working criminal justice system," Board Chairwoman Kathryn Harrington said.

"We have had the opportunity through various conversations to be better informed about those needs and to move forward with this proposal to go before the voters."

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