Cost cuts finalized as county approves budget

After a dramatic overhaul of Josephine County’s budget for the 2023/24 fiscal year, four budget committee hearings and still more cuts that totaled $2.1 million after amendments were made to the proposed budget, the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the budget at their May 31 weekly business session, held at Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass.
Sandy Novak, JoCo finance director and budget officer, was on hand to address the board about the document she led the charge on.
“On May 9 the budget committee approved a $173,377,500 budget as amended and set the tax rate based on the permanent tax rate as well as the voter-approved local option levies,” explained Novak. “During the budget process all general fund asks were reviewed to ensure the balance between service and resources was in the best interest of the taxpayers.
“This budget appropriates $8.8 million for law enforcement, which represents 46% of all General Fund revenue; 77% of that is one-time money.”
Novak went on, “The purpose of today’s public hearing is to hear any citizen input on the budget that was approved by the budget committee. The Board of Commissioners may make additional adjustments to the approved budget. Finally, before June 30, budget law requires that the Board of County Commissioners adopt the budget, make appropriations and set the tax rates based on the permanent rate as well as the voter-approved local option levies.”
Board Chair Herman Baertschiger lamented the fact that Josephine County is so reliant on state and federal monies to function, reminding the audience that 85% of the county’s budget is derived from grants. The county’s property tax rate is $0.5667 per $1,000 of assessed value, the lowest in the state of Oregon.

“That’s our property tax that goes to our General Fund which makes up about $5.3 million – that’s it,” Baertschiger pointed out. Novak added that it costs around $5 million just to do the bare essential, state-mandated functions of county government, such as collecting taxes and assessing property values.

Besides the county’s property taxes, the additional voter-approved taxes in Josephine County are the Animal Control levy of $0.11 per $1,000 and the Jail/Detention levy of $0.93 per $1,000.

Commissioner John West commented, “I want to thank our employees and our departments. There was a lot of time on this budget that they took and they had to go back to the drawing board and a lot of departments had to make cuts and it wasn’t easy. But they came back and they didn’t complain; they did it the best they could and it wasn’t easy so I want to thank them for that.”

Commissioner Dan DeYoung echoed this sentiment: “I just want to thank the budget committee for wading through this once again this year and we had good participation by the budget committee – kept the finance director on her toes. I’d like to also thank Sandy, the budget committee and her staff for putting all this together. It’s a lot of work getting all these numbers to balance out, so I want to thank all the department heads that were involved. The whole company was involved in finding and calling back as much money as possible.”

No members of the public opted to speak during the budget hearing, so the board moved on to officially vote on adopting the 2023/24 budget.

Later in the meeting, JoCo Transit Supervisor Scott Chancey detailed a two-year agreement with ODOT to pass on federal funds for the rural transportation program.

“There’s three projects within this agreement and the reason we do that is because if we directly fund operations it’s at a 50% match versus we split it up into administration, preventive and maintenance, and then the planning activities, we only pay a 10.27% match fee, so it provides $627,709,” Chancey explained. “There’s a 71, almost $72,000 local match requirement that comes from state funds that come directly to the transit department. And again, these are federal funds that can be spent on nothing but public transit.”