County approves proposed 2023-24 budget

After four daily meetings last week, the Linn County Budget Committee approved a proposed 2023-24 budget of $229,270,552 Thursday morning, May 4, at the Linn County Expo Center in Albany.

Committee members include community volunteers Jennifer Stanaway, longtime chair; Kerry Johnson, vice-chair; and Mellissa Barnard, as well as county commissioners Roger Nyquist, Sherrie Sprenger and Will Tucker.

Stanaway said that although the work was time-consuming, “I really enjoy the process every year, largely because everyone works together so well.”

Commissioner Nyquist thanked county staff and elected officials for collaborating and being fiscally conservative with county residents in mind.

Although the committee approved the budget, the Board of Commissioners needs to adopt it before July 1 to make it official. (See box at right for a specific breakdown.)

The permanent tax rate was set at $1.2736 per $1,000 of property valuation.

The Law Enforcement Levy will be $2.98 per $1,000 of property valuation.

Will Summers brought three proposals from the Board of Compensation, which the committee approved.

They include adjusting the salaries of the elected officials based on the same cost of living adjustments as the management staff adjustments; increasing the treasurer/budget officer’s salary schedule to that of other elected officials, such as the county clerk and commissioners; and adjusting the sheriff’s salary to include all incentive pay for which she is qualified. State statute requires that the sheriff be the highest-paid member of the office.

The committee approved a major capital project of $500,000 to purchase and install a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system for the courthouse. Another will include purchasing 3,000 plastic chairs and 400 cloth-covered chairs to replace 25-year-old units at the Expo Center for a total cost of $265,000.

Other information gathered during the meetings included:

♦ New Parks Director Stacy Whaley said the drawdown of the Green Peter Reservoir water level during this and ensuing summers will affect parks revenue, but the Parks Department will bid on managing all of the U.S. Forest Service campgrounds in the Willamette National Forest as a possible revenue-source replacement. The county already manages several Forest Service campgrounds near Cascadia.

♦ The Linn County Sheriff’s Office handled 4,341 cases last year and dispatchers fielded more than 62,000 calls. More than 2,900 inmates were booked and processed. The LCSO hired 29 new staff members, but 18 vacancies remain. Total employment is 193.

♦ The Sheriff’s Office has reinitiated a GED program that was put on hold during COVID-19 pandemic, increased the Chaplain’s Service and is working closely with the Alcohol & Drug Department to assist inmates.

♦ The cost of new service vehicles is up about $10,000 each, which adds up when 10 or more are needed at a time.

♦ The Clerk’s Office is seeing a decrease in revenue for property recordings as interest rates have increased and home sales have slowed.

♦ Due to the winter weather in the mid-valley, the Road Department used far more anti-icing materials than planned.

♦ The Health Department has seen a major increase in behavioral issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic and in addition to the Crisis Team, a new Mobile Crisis Team is being assembled. Mental health assistance will be available 24 hours a day.

More than 3,027 people are enrolled in the county’s mental-health program. Public Health assisted more than 19,000 people last year.

♦ All but one deputy district attorney is responsible for a homicide case, and the number of drug overdoses are escalating.

Also on Thursday, the 4-H/Extension Service District Budget Committee approved a 2023-24 budget of $1,006,097 and a tax rate of 7 cents per $1,000 of property valuation.

Although the county owns the Tangent building that houses Linn County Extension Services, Oregon State University has leased space for $83,000 per year, which the county used to pay for the building. That money may now be used in part for continuing maintenance and/or boosting 4-H/Extension programs.

Several months ago, a vehicle smashed into the building’s Extension Service side (the Sheriff’s Office shares space in the structure), resulting in an estimated repair cost of $60,000, which insurance is expected to cover.

– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer