Updates about Benton County proposed budget 2019-2020

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Friends in Benton County,

Since the moment I congratulated Commissioner Malone winning the election, I haven’t stopped supporting the County government with feedback and input I continue to hear you.

I would like to share with you updates, and more importantly, highlights on the County’s proposed budget for the next biennium 2019-2021 that was presented to the public earlier this evening.

In the past few months, I had the opportunity to provide feedback and contribute to the County’s vision statement around emergency preparedness. I have also communicated the concerns of rural Benton County regarding water security to our local, state, and federal officials.

Tonight, I provided my input to the County budget committee around the following areas:

* Constituents expect the County to allocating resources toward enhancing the County's Criminal Justice System and use all possible funding opportunities before going back to the voters with an ask for a bond. (the County is setting aside $2M for this project during in this proposed budget)

The need to invest in emergency management and preparedness.

* It is helpful that we highlight the County’s investments in 2040 Thriving Communities initiative focus areas. (The County has not yet developed methods to incorporate these areas into the 2019-2021 budget but promises to reflect them in the 2021-23 budget).

Highlights from the proposed County budget:

- The 2019-21proposed budget is $311.8M (+27.8%)

-$2.3 M is used from the reserves to balance the general funds budget. This means that the County will spend more than what it will earn by $2.3M that it will withdraw from its savings.

- Increased wages for employee groups (ranges between 1.25% and 4%)

- Critical investments in economic development especially supporting women and minority business owners and entrepreneurs. The budget maintains support to RAIN and provides support to the Foundry.

- Additional 2.0 FTE deputy district attorneys and 2.0 FTE paralegals.

- Additional 1.0 FTE Parole and Probation Officer who will be focused on developing and coordinating a pre-trial program, a program that the County Criminal Justice System Assessment needs support.

-Investing $3M in capital improvement projects around the County. (My favorite highlights are the maintenance of OSU campus way covered bridge, Bellfountain play structure, and installing Solar Panels on some of the County government buildings)

- Significant investments to offset the known increase in PERS rates and set aside money to reduce future rates. The County's PERS unfunded liability is going to be paid in full in about 10-12 years.

- Increased investment in veteran services

- Setting aside $2M for the criminal justice system study and implementation.

The next County budget meeting that accepts a public hearing is on May 8th.

Do you think the County is reflecting your community values and priorities?

Where do you think the County should put more (or less) spending on?

Feel free to connect with the County budget committee members or share your comments here.

* The highlights are mine. To access the County budget or connect directly with County budget members please go to https://www.co.benton.or.us/budgetoffice/page/benton-county-budget-2019-2021