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Budget tops $339 million for 2016-17

The Jackson County Citizens Budget Committee recommended approval Tuesday of an almost $339.4 million budget for the coming fiscal year, an increase of about $11 million over the current budget.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will consider final approval of the budget in June.

The county property tax rate of $2.01 per $1,000 of assessed value will remain flat, although the taxable amount of assessed value is allowed to increase 3 percent annually under statewide tax rules.

The county will continue to provide more mental health services to residents in need — driving much of the increase in spending. The Jackson County Health and Human Services Department budget will rise by $5.4 million next fiscal year.

The 2010 federal Affordable Care Act put mental health coverage on par with physical health care coverage, leading to a nationwide scramble to hire mental health workers to aid people with psychological issues. The act also expanded access to both physical and mental health care.

Federal funding that flows to Oregon and then Jackson County is paying for the majority of the increased mental health care. Jackson County has contracts to provide mental health care to residents on the Oregon Health Plan.

In the last four years, the number of county residents on the Oregon Health Plan has skyrocketed from 30,000 people and now appears to have leveled off at about 60,000, said Jackson County Health and Human Services Department Director Mark Orndoff.

In 2015, 6,624 individuals received mental health services from the county, he said.

To serve residents in the upper Rogue River area, the county began providing mental health services in 2015 at the Rogue Family Center in White City. It hopes to provide more services in Ashland, Orndoff said.

The county already offers mental health services at its downtown Medford building.

The county has partnered with local law enforcement agencies to train 160 law enforcement personnel in crisis intervention, and it hopes to have all personnel trained countywide in the next 18 months, Orndoff said.

If county commissioners approve the budget, the number of full-time equivalent county employees would increase from 940 to more than 1,103. Approximately 139 full-time equivalent employees would be added to the county's mental health program as a result of Affordable Care Act changes.

More employees will be added in the sheriff's office, assessor's office, administration, development services, district attorney's office, information technology and community justice.

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