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Jackson County adopts a $306 million budget

Jackson County commissioners unanimously approved a $306 million budget Wednesday and said the county is on firm financial footing.

"In my opinion, the finances of Jackson County are rock solid," Commissioner John Rachor said.

Commissioners credited County Administrator Danny Jordan and other county staff members for deft management that has helped the county weather an economic downturn and cuts in federal payments to counties.

Commissioner Doug Breidenthal said the county has gone from being in the position of pulling $10 million from its reserves to adding $7 million to its reserves.

"That $17 million turnaround is an indication that what we're doing is the right thing for Jackson County citizens at this time," Breidenthal said.

The $306 million budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 is up from the current fiscal year's budget of $301.9 million.

The new budget includes approximately $15 million in increased Health and Human Services Department spending as the county radically expands mental health services in response to the federal Affordable Care Act. Much of the funding comes from the federal government.

Responding to criticism that the county government is becoming too reliant on federal and state funding, Commissioner Don Skundrick agreed the county was more self-reliant in the past and is heavily dependent on outside funds.

Skundrick said commissioners are working with commissioners of other counties on attempts to gain local control over federal lands that contain natural resources. In the meantime, the county is trying to be a good steward of state and federal funds, he said.

Rachor said local residents and businesses pay state and federal taxes — and he wants to get as much of that money back as possible.

The county budget has been kept under control by savings from the Public Employees Retirement System and the county's self-insurance health plan, as well as one-time or unpredictable windfalls, such as an extension of federal payments to counties hurt by reduced timber harvests. In addition, many county employees are going without cost-of-living increases, according to Jordan.

The Jackson County Budget Committee approved a $306 million budget in April.

The only change to the budget since that time was the addition of two new patrol officers for the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, Jordan said. Those positions will be funded out of the $306 million budget and did not cause the budget to increase from the one proposed in April, he said.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.