POLK COUNTY — Members of Polk County’s budget committee approved an $86 million budget for 2018-19, the largest in the county’s history, on Thursday.
That total, $17 million larger than the current spending plan, includes proceeds from the county’s proposed Polk County Courthouse maintenance bond and debt service in the amount of $10.3 million.
The general fund — which pays for the sheriff’s office, district attorney, community corrections, jail, assessor, clerk, community development and treasurer — amounts to $25.6 million, an increase of $2.2 million.
“You have a budget that provides the ability for all our departments to provide the services they have in the past, and we have expanded some of those services in the way of public safety,” said County Administrator Greg Hansen on the first day of three days of budget hearings.
The nearly 10 percent increase in general fund revenue comes from a variety of sources, including property taxes ($450,000), state timber cut revenue ($150,000), state marijuana taxes ($175,000), jail rental beds ($325,000) and federal O&C timber cut ($400,000).
Federal timber proceeds through the actual cut — $400,000 — and Secure Rural Schools bill reauthorization payments — about $350,000 — will be used to lower property tax rates on the county’s public safety levy. Voters authorized levying 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, but the timber-related income will lower that to about 33 cents per $1,000, Hansen said.
The budget adds two patrol deputies in the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, adding another officer for day and night shift rotation. Hansen said that gives patrol sergeants more options to cover for vacation, illness and training.
“That will give him a lot of flexibility on his shifts,” Hansen said.
The Polk County District Attorney’s Office will add support staff in the prosecution (1.0) and victim assistance (.95) divisions.
The Polk County Jail will have another deputy, while the community service program will add two positions. Community Corrections has a decrease of one position.
The Veteran’s Service Office’s budget is $209,730, up from $175,000 in 2017-18.
“We received a majority of our funding from a state operating grant,” Hansen said. “That grant increased this last legislative period, so we are receiving about $115,000 per year.”
The county adds another $60,000 to round out the budget.
The office opened in January of 2017.
Family & Community Outreach Director Brent DeMoe took over management of the office in October. Now the VSO position is vacant with temporary veterans service officers filling in.
“We are hoping to have a qualified VSO officer within the next three to six months,” Hansen said.
Public Works and Behavioral Health both saw budget increases, $1.9 million and $2.2 million respectively.
Hansen said Public Works grew mostly due to additional gas tax money from the state.
Growth in behavioral health continues a pattern seen in recent years, one that concerns budget committee Chairman Norbert Hartmann and longtime member Blair Wasson.
“With this behavioral health explosion in growth, are we being careful about managing personnel growth?” Hartmann said.
Hartmann said he’s worried without careful budgeting, the county would be in the position of having to lay off employees, similar to what happened in 2013 when mental health workers suddenly lost their jobs.
“We have built reserves to the point where they are quite large and should allow us to address any revenue downturn, at least in a better method than we did six, seven years ago,” Hansen said. “We wouldn’t have to lay off lots people, but through attrition probably back fill positions if we saw a trend in revenue (decline).”
Hansen said adding the West Salem clinic has allowed the county to serve more clients to the point that it reversed a trend of Polk County owing money to Marion County for serving Salem resident west of the river.
The committee will meet again on May 16, the day after the bond election, to formally approve the budget.