You can’t read a newspaper or watch a news program now without seeing a story about the imminent financial collapse of a government entity. Whether the City of Detroit, the State of California or the European Union, the fiscal forecasts are bleak.
Common threads emerge amongst government entities in dire financial straits: A lack of political fortitude and long-term strategies to modernize health care, pension and retirement plans for employees. An over-reaching bureaucracy that stymies business and private sector job growth with higher taxation and unnecessary regulation. Lastly, the bonding – borrowing of money – for unnecessary and expensive public projects.
Not on our watch. I am honored and proud to represent Washington County. Due to decisive, long-term actions by past and current county commissioners and a top-notch staff, Washington County is in stellar financial shape, and will continue to be for years to come.
The county’s total expenditures dropped 4.6% from 2011 to 2012 ($181.7 million to $173.4 million). Total expenditures for 2012 are less than they were in 2008. Even though from 2008 to 2011 the county lost $11.6 million in general state aid, we still finished each year under budget due to careful management of resources.
Washington County spends the lowest amount per capita administrative cost in the entire state for total human services costs (all programs combined). Moreover, Washington County has the lowest per capita budget of the seven county metro area for 2012. In addition, Washington County has fewer full-time employees in 2012 (1,065) than it did in 2002 (1,093), despite a rapidly growing population.
We have led by example in these challenging economic times. The county board has not voted for a salary increase in four years.
What does this mean for you? Washington County has the second lowest property tax rate of all 87 counties. Only Dakota County is slightly lower. Meaning, if your home or business was located in any other county other than Dakota, you would pay more in property taxes (county portion). Ramsey county residents pay about 80 percent more. Yes, 80 percent more.
Our efforts have been both recognized and praised. Standard and Poor’s has given Washington County their highest bond rating of AAA. Only 88 of 3,068 counties nationwide share this distinction. The county’s bond rating is currently higher than that of our United States Federal Government.
Washington County has received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association for 14 consecutive years. Furthermore, the county has also received the Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers Association for 26 consecutive years.
Washington County has made a strong commitment to all of our residents and business owners. We stick to providing core and essential services. We provide them well, while continuing to be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars. We exercise disciplined fiscal responsibility and accountability. We spend your hard-earned dollars and cents as carefully as if they were our own.