Washington County Commission passes 2016 budget, refinances bonds, lowers taxes

ST. GEORGE — Refinancing of a bond series will lower property taxes for county residents, officials said at the Washington County Commission meeting Tuesday.

In 2007, Washington County was close to completing a series of libraries that were built throughout the county, Washington County Administrator Dean Cox said; the libraries were funded by a $5.7 million general obligation bond.

With today’s extremely low interest rates, Cox said, the county is taking the opportunity to refinance $3 million in debt.

“With these extremely low interest rates, we have an opportunity and an option to call the bonds that were issued previously … and save the taxpayers of Washington County directly, because these are general obligation bonds that appear directly on their property tax statement, somewhere in the area of $200,000 and maybe just a little bit more than that.”

Exact terms of the transaction won’t be known until the bonds are actually sold, Cox said. The motion approved by the Commission starts the refinancing process, Deputy County Attorney Eric Clarke said.

Budgets

In addition to refinancing $3 million in bonds, the commission also approved a budget for 2016 and adjusted the 2015 budget. General fund revenues for 2016 total $30.4 million, up from $29.2 million in 2015.

After a public hearing at which no members of the public commented, the County Commission approved the 2016 budget, which is essentially unchanged from what was presented to the Commission in November, Washington County Clerk/Auditor Kim Hafen said.

Minor changes were made to the 2015 Washington County budget.

“Obviously, we prepare a budget a year in advance,” Hafen said, “and obviously there’s things that happen in the meantime that we (haven’t) accounted for.”

The Recreation, Arts and Parks tax was not in place when the 2015 budget was prepared, Hafen said. Other changes include an $800,000 early bond repayment, $500,000 for enhanced security at the Purgatory Correctional Facility and $100,000 for the preservation of historical documents.

“I really appreciate the trust that … both our elected and our appointed department heads take with the public money,” Commissioner Victor Iverson said.

“They’re very disciplined in their requests, and I think they give the taxpayer maximum value for their hard-earned money that they pay to us.”

I think  each of our departments came in under budget this year,” Commissioner Alan Gardner said. Gardner also pointed out that county officials do not have a lot of flexibility with how much of the county budget is spent. State and federal revenue, along with transient room taxes, all come with strict guidelines and cannot be moved from one county fund to another.

Other business

In other business, the Commission named Gardner as commission chairman for 2016, which will be his last year in office. After serving on the Washington County Commission for 20 years, Gardner will retire at the end of 2016, leaving Seat A of the commission open for a newcomer.

While candidates for the County Commission won’t be able to officially register their candidacy until March, Washington County Administrator Dean Cox has announced his intention to run for the seat.

The commission also appointed members to several special service districts and advisory boards including the Council on Aging, the Pine Valley Special Service District, the Pine Valley Local District, the Specially Funded Transportation Special Service District, the Aging and Nutrition Services Advisory Council, the Angel Springs Special Service District and the Solid Waste Control board.

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

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