Jail medical to be overseen by Public Health

On June 21, the Board of Josephine County Commissioners adopted not one, but two supplemental budgets, the first pertaining to the expiring 2022/23 fiscal year, the second to the incoming 2023/24 fiscal year.
For anyone who needs a refresher, a supplemental budget consists of unforeseen expenses or revenues that an organization experiences that were not accounted for when the original budget was conceived.
JoCo Finance Director Sandy Novak explained that the most significant element of the 2022/23 supplemental was “the payroll liability fund which has about a hundred thousand dollars more in expenses than anticipated but also has sufficient excess revenues to cover this. The additional expenses were due to a still higher turnover rate.”
Novak went on, “Purchases are done in the property or equipment reserve fund and not in operating funds and then there’s grants received in one fund that shared duties and proceeds with another fund like IMEG or the sheriff where the sheriff will receive the funds and some of it will go to Community Development and legal.
“Some adjustments or grants received or increased have been accepted by the board and expenditures are therefore already approved. We are codifying them here. Community Corrections did receive some grant funds up front but it was reimbursement-based and the excess funds needed to be sent back. Some adjustments are merely because we are budgeting so tightly there are small expenses that can trigger a supplemental budget.”
The board unanimously approved the 2022/23 supplemental budget by a 3-0 vote. Before moving onto the 2023/24 supplemental, Board Chair Herman Baertschiger wanted to clarify how commonplace supplemental budgets are: “These supplemental budgets are not unusual because when we do our budget we’re not to the end of the year yet and now we’re almost – our fiscal year ends on June 30 – and now that we’re approaching that we compile the numbers, which change a little bit and so that’s what happens here; we just have to balance things.”
The major change to the recently approved 2023/24 budget was that JoCo Public Health will begin providing medical services at the county jail, rather than the private company that has done so, because the business is pulling out of Oregon.
Public Health will use its operating funds to provide medical services to inmates, then get reimbursed out of the jail fund.
Also in the supplemental, the transit department is reducing its full-time employee count by three, which Novak said will result in an anticipated cost savings of $220,000.
During the public hearing on the supplementals, Bill Hunker of Merlin praised Novak for her financial expertise, saying, “I’ve worked with her now on some things and find her extremely knowledgeable and so willing to help.”
Hunker suggested that the county find a way to condense the entire budget down into “one sheet” so interested citizens can easily understand it. “I think the public’s going to get more and more involved in trying to understand the book,” Hunker concluded.
In response, Commissioner John West quipped, “If Sandy could do all of the budget you’re talking about on one sheet she’d be my best friend.”
He went on, “I’ve seen that book and if that could happen more power to her but I think it’s harder than it sounds putting it all on one sheet that you can totally understand because that book, she has to go through it with me and there’s a lot in it.”

Baertschiger added, “The problem is that you know, everything’s done by program anymore and stuff and then we have our auditors and it’s just hard to pull. The program is not programmed to do that and that’s the problem so you actually have to go in there and try to take it from there and you might not get everything because it’s in 16 different places so it’s a struggle; I understand it.”

Besides Ertle, only meeting frequenter Judy Ahrens spoke during public comments, and she lamented the fact that inmates’ medical bills are required to be covered by taxpayer dollars.

“Word gets out on the street and so somebody knows they need a kidney operation transplant or they need a heart surgery, so they go and steal a candy bar at 7-Eleven, making sure they’re caught and then we’ve got thousands and thousands of dollars to help them with their heart transplant whatever,” Ehrens speculated. “You know, so I don’t know how we can tone that down a little bit so people who are sleeping on our steps right now outside in a few things because they don’t have medical insurance, that they know they can be taken care of from the hard-working taxpayer.”

After the close of the public hearing, commissioners voted 3-0 to approve the 2023/24 supplemental budget.