Patrol top budget priority for county

With the 2023/24 fiscal year starting at the end of next month, the Josephine County Budget Committee has held a series of meetings in recent weeks to dissect the proposed budget and collect public feedback in their quest to greenlight a finalized budget.
Among the biggest budget shakeups for the coming fiscal year, the county plans to transfer $9,568,900 – 50% of the current fiscal year general fund revenue – to the Law Enforcement Fund to ensure adequate public safety services. The last time such a transfer occurred was the 2019/20 fiscal year, when $2,750,000 was transferred. Of the general funds being transferred, 72% are considered one-time funds – $4 million in BLM and Forest Reserve Timber funds and $2.85 million in ARPA Section 605 funds. The remaining $2.75 million will come from general revenue.
To make the transfer feasible, the county will be stripping other General Fund departments – such as the Assessor, Clerk and Treasurer – to their bare minimum, mandated functions, which will result in both downsizing of personnel and efficiency.
The first Budget Committee meeting on the 23/24 budget took place April 18, where JoCo Finance Director Sandy Novak declared, “The Proposed Budget meets all the requirements of Oregon Budget Law. All budgets are in balance as required by Oregon Budget Law, which means that the budgeted requirements (expenditures and ending fund balance) are equal to the estimated resources (beginning fund balance and revenues) available during the budget year. The estimates of resources and expenditures must be reasonable and reasonably likely to prove correct, based on the known facts at the time. All such estimates presented are reasonably likely to prove correct.”
Novak went on in her budget message, “The Proposed Budget incorporates many of the best practices in budget presentation recommended by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) of the United States and Canada. Josephine County has earned the GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award since 2012, eleven years in a row. This award is the highest form of recognition in governmental budgeting and shows that our budget document reflects nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation.”

The finance director reminded community members that the Budget Book and other budget information can be found on the county’s website – www.josephinecounty.gov. “In addition, a printed version of the Budget Book is available for review at the Grants Pass Library and at the Board of County Commissioners’ office.”
According to Novak, 67% of Josephine County’s current year revenue for this budget consists of grants, fees and charges for services are 16% and 15% is property taxes. “Grants as well as fees and charges for services are restricted to a specific use,” Novak wrote in her budget message.
“This budget proposes that we use $916,000 of fund balance. Any designated funding (i.e. gas tax) remains in the fund in which it will be used and will reside in that fund’s beginning fund balance. It is designated for a specific purpose.”
Department directors explained in their budgets how they intend to meet these goals set by the Board of County Commissioners, which are the same as previous years:
Improve community outreach and communication to the public by increasing efficiencies within county departments and providing enhanced service to citizens.
Develop a sustainable plan for all mandated and essential county government programs.
Provide access to county services to the citizens of Josephine County in a transparent, open, and efficient manner.
An article in next week’s edition of the Illinois Valley News will delve into how specific departments’ services will be impacted by the 2023/24 budget.
With their vow to find every penny they can to fund law enforcement, there are no surprises that the four new priorities the commissioners have had task groups investigate are as follows:
Providing stable funding for law enforcement.
Protecting the use of non-obligated (general fund) funding for the use of law enforcement operations until stable funding can be obtained.
Creating a safe community (move toward sufficient law enforcement funding and provide fire protection throughout the county).
Providing for quiet enjoyment of private property.
In her budget message, Novak identified three notable differences between the coming fiscal year’s budget compared to the one that is coming to an end:
There is an 8% decrease in the total proposed budget for 23/24, which amounts to $186,350,500, compared to 22/23 after its first supplemental. Novak attributes this decrease to the absence of American Rescue Plan Act dollars and major airports projects reaching completion.
The total direct expenses for payroll, supplies, and capital (excluding internal transfers and ending fund balance) for all funds decreased $16.2 million, or 12%. Factors for this include COVID relief being suspended, capital grants for the airport, a $4.7 million reduction in Public Health spending due to dwindling COVID impacts and less program spending, such as a 20% reduction in Community Development spending.
Total full-time equivalent positions decreased from 483.98 to 473.13, a further decrease from 497.63 in 2020-21. The reduction in positions includes 4 in Community Development, 2.5 in Transit, 2 in Internal Service Funds, and 1.9 in Public Health.
“The Proposed Budget requests a spending appropriation of approximately $5.2 million in general fund support on general fund departments (Assessor, Clerk, Treasurer, etc.), a 14% increase more due to department specific revenue projections being down and a 10.3% increase in the cost of providing the same level of service,” Novak wrote in her report.
“The proposed general fund budget for 2023-24 totals $21,851,600 excluding ending fund balance. The Board of County Commissioners was removed this year from the General Fund to the Internal Service fund, reducing the general fund by $651,600. Direct expenses (for payroll and supplies & services) decreased $394,200 or 4% overall as a result.”
In addition to the Sheriff’s Department, which will receive the largest share of the general fund at $9.6 million, Novak reviewed the two county departments that will be completely funded by voter-approved levies.
Voters renewed the $0.93 per $1,000 assessed value levy for the Adult Jail & Juvenile Detention fund in November 2021. This is expected to raise $8.3 million in the coming fiscal year.
A $0.11 per thousand Animal Control levy will raise approximately $1 million. This levy was also renewed in 2021.
Novak wrote in the concluding paragraph of her budget message, “I look forward to reviewing the proposed budget with you and wish to thank the many individuals in the various departments who are responsible for preparing this budget. Special thanks go to Ruth Nelson, Assistant Finance Director and the entire Finance Office, who spent many hours ensuring that this budget document meets the collective requirements of the County, of Oregon Budget Law, and the best practice recommendations of the Government Finance Officers Association.