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Commissioners approve $339 million budget

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a $339.2 million budget Wednesday that includes cuts to mental health care, additions to law enforcement and raises for elected officials.

The budget, which is slightly smaller than the previous budget, will go into effect July 1.

County property taxes, which bring in about $37 million, will remain unchanged at $2.01 per $1,000 of assessed value — or $402 for a house assessed at $200,000.

The budget eliminates the equivalent of 249 full-time Health and Human Services positions. The county lost contracts to provide mental health care to Oregon Health Plan patients. About 65 of those positions were yet to be filled.

Jackson Care Connect and AllCare Health — coordinated care organizations that manage the physical, mental and dental health care of OHP clients — are transitioning to other mental health care providers in the community. They said the county wasn’t providing enough mental health care fast enough, and they want to offer care in a variety of other settings, including doctors’ offices.

One in three Jackson County residents is now on OHP because of expanded health insurance coverage provided by the federal Affordable Care Act.

ACA funding from the federal and state governments fueled the county’s expansion of mental health care for OHP clients.

The future of the ACA and the services it covers is uncertain as Republicans in Congress push for a replacement plan that reduces spending and cuts back on subsidized health insurance.

County elected officials will receive an almost 1.5 percent cost-of-living raise under the new budget. Like other county employees, they also will take their annual 5 percent step up on a salary ladder for each position, unless they have already hit the top level.

Jackson County commissioners Colleen Roberts and Bob Strosser are continuing to take reduced salaries of $68,432 each to express their opposition to the authorized salaries for commissioners.

With a step increase and cost-of-living raise, Roberts’ current authorized salary of $100,318 will rise to $106,891 beginning in January 2018. The authorized salary for Strosser, who recently took office, will rise from $91,000 to $96,970.

Commissioner Rick Dyer will continue taking his full salary of $100,318, which will rise to $106,891 in January 2018. He has said commissioners must forego their careers while serving, but must still support their families.

Law enforcement agencies are among the winners with the new budget. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office will add two employees, the District Attorney’s Office will add a half-time position and the Community Justice Department, which includes parole, probation, juvenile and prison transition services, will add the equivalent of 1.5 full-time positions.

The $339.2 million budget for the coming fiscal year is almost unchanged from the current budget of nearly $339.4 million. Although the county has slashed mental health spending, it is adding some employees elsewhere, tackling infrastructure projects and building up its reserves. The growing reserve funds inflate the budget.

Despite the setbacks on the mental health front, commissioners said the county is being managed in a fiscally responsible way.

Dyer said the county government is lean and efficient. He noted the county is continuing to build its reserves, cover the costs of infrastructure projects and provide services without seeking additional tax levies from residents.

Commissioners credited County Administrator Danny Jordan, department heads and other staff members with keeping the county on sound financial footing.

— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.