ST. GEORGE — The Washington County Commission on Tuesday approved a $102 million preliminary budget for 2019 that is filled with projected revenue increases linked to continuing growth and sales tax.
“As we look at this proposed budget, it opens of a window for people to see it and make comments,” Washington County Clerk Kim Hafen said.
The budget’s general fund is projected to be around $34 million, an $1.5 million increase over last year’s budget.
Hafen said “revenues are up substantially” due to increases from property and sales and use taxes.
Property tax revenues are projected to bring in an increase of $500,000 for a total of nearly $9.6 million. Sales and use tax is projected to bring in an additional $800,000, which is a 10 percent increase from 2018, or about $8.8 million for next year.
Neither property or sales taxes were subject to rate increases, Hafen said. They’ve simply increased with the population of the county, which translates to more development and sales overall.
The general fund primarily covers county administrative costs and services with 63 percent of the fund, or $19.6 million, going to public safety. Additional funds deal with municipal services, B and C roads, the county library system, convention and tourism, recreation, the county’s Council on Aging, debt service and so on.
The County Attorney’s Office is the second-highest funded item at $3 million for next year, followed by the county’s information technology services at $1.3 million.
Hafen is recommending a 5 percent raise for county employees. The raise does not apply to Washington County Sheriff’s Office employees because they recently received a $2 pay increase.
The increase for the Sheriff’s Office brings the base pay for deputies from $18 to $20. The higher pay is considered one of the ways to stay competitive at a time when the retention and recruitment of seasoned and new deputies has proved challenging for police agencies.
The county’s public defender fund will increase 5 percent, from $966,000 to $1 million.
The county also anticipates hiring a trails administrator in the coming year who will help coordinate the development of the county’s trail system.
County projects and items slated to receive new or additional funding in the preliminary budget include:
- $1 million for upgrading and remodeling the county’s building on the corner of St. George Boulevard and 200 East where the county’s justice court and county assessor’s office are housed.
- $125,000 for a joint county and Utah Department of Transportation project near New Harmony.
- $2.4 million for various projects related to tourism and recreation, including money the newly opened Snake Hollow Bike Park in St. George.
- $1 million for reconstruction of the St. George Regional Airport’s runway.
- Nearly $700,000 via grants in additional funding for the county’s Court Support Services.
The county is also budgeting $2.7 million for the Habitat Conservation Plan that oversees the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.
The budget also projects receiving $3.1 million in RAP tax revenue which will be applied to recreation, arts and parks-related projects.
The public can review the proposed 2019 budget at the County Clerk’s Office located in the Washington County Administrative Building at 197 E. Tabernacle St. in St. George.
An online copy will be made available on the Washington County website in the near future, Hafen said.
The County Commission will vote on adopting the proposed budget during its Dec. 18 meeting.
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