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County's budget gets tentative OK

DALLAS -- Polk County Administrator Greg Hansen wrote in his 2013-14 budget message last week that the proposed budget was so tight, it offered very little room for changes.

April 10, 2013

DALLAS -- Polk County Administrator Greg Hansen wrote in his 2013-14 budget message last week that the proposed budget was so tight, it offered very little room for changes.

With few options available, the Polk County Budget Committee tentatively approved on Friday a budget nearly identical to what was proposed at the beginning of the county's four-day budget hearings last week.

The $16.88 million in general fund revenue expected represents a 1.1 percent increase from the current budget. However, cost increases -- mostly Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) rate hikes and health insurance premium increases -- more than outpace the slight growth.

The tentatively approved budget eliminates the equivalent of 5.3 positions, four of them in the Polk County Sheriff's Office, which will operate on approximately $233,000 less than in the current budget cycle.

Other general fund cuts will occur in the assessor's office, district attorney's office in prosecution and support enforcement divisions, and Polk Community Corrections' Community Service department.

Outside the general fund, juvenile, youth programs and public works departments will see staffing reductions. Health and human services, public health and mental health will see increases in staff, with more state funding coming in than expected. Management services also will have an increase. The only change the budget committee made last week was to approve an additional $2,500 for medical examiner services for the district attorney's office.

There could be more changes to come before the budget officially is adopted in June, though.

Negotiations with the four county labor unions are continuing. Any cost-of-living increases would require a contingency fund reduction.

The overall 2013-14 county budget totals approximately $51.1 million, a 1.77 percent increase from the current year.

Hansen said the proposed budget maintains most of the services county residents have been offered in the past -- with the exception of 24-hour sheriff's patrols that ended in March due to staffing shortages -- but that could change soon.

"The ability to provide these same services is no longer there," Hansen wrote. "As more and more reductions occur in staffing, especially in the criminal justice system, the inability to provide 24-hour law enforcement and to prosecute certain crimes is becoming a reality."

The budget committee is scheduled to meet again in May to give final approval to the budget. The Board of Commissioners will adopt it in June.

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