The Washington County commissioners passed the 2022 budget without a tax increase.
The $148.23 million budget is significantly higher than the 2021 spending plan because it includes an estimated $49 million in federal American Rescue Plan stimulus funds that the county may use for a variety of purchases and programs.
However, the next year’s final budget is about $750,000 less than the original posted budget that county officials proposed last month.
The budget keeps taxes at 2.43 mills, and county officials touted the fact they haven’t raised property taxes in 12 years. The commissioners unanimously approved the budget during Thursday’s voting meeting.
“We’re thrilled we can present a budget without a tax increase for the taxpayers,” commission Chairwoman Diana Irey Vaughan said after the meeting.
Finance Director Joshua Hatfield said keeping taxes steady for so long was a “testament” to county offices working to find savings and new funding streams when available. The county has also received about $98 million in ARP money, but has several years to use it so it’s not all budgeted to be spent in a single year, meaning more of it can be used in the future.
“We’re working,” Hatfield said.
However, Clerk of Courts Brenda Davis was unhappy her department’s budget had been reduced from $679,000 when she took office in 2020 to about $400,000 next year. She noted six staff members have been transferred out of her office in the past six months, leaving her with only three employees.
Davis said she is “not able to properly function” with the limited staff and the amount of filing and other duties that still need to be performed. She requested during a subsequent salary board meeting after the regular meeting to return the six employees to her office. Two separate motions died for lack of a second.