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Benton County passes $363 million budget
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Benton County passes $363 million budget

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Benton County Courthouse 16

The Benton County Courthouse.

Benton County has a new two-year budget.

The Benton County Board of Commissioners passed the $363 million spending plan in a pair of quick public hearings as part of a virtual meeting on Tuesday.

“This was a smooth budget process,” said Xan Augerot, chairwoman of the board. “I look forward to doing it again in two years.”

The board approved supplemental appropriations to the road and health funds of a combined $159,740 after the first public hearing and then passed the overall budget document at the close of the second hearing.

“I don’t know that there is a lot of discussion to be had on the budget,” said Mary Otley, the county’s chief financial officer. “It went together pretty easily.”

Both votes were unanimous, with Commissioners Nancy Wyse and Pat Malone joining Augerot in the 3-0 votes.

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No members of the public spoke at either public hearing.

The commissioners were acting on a May 11 recommendation of the county Budget Committee, which consists of the three elected commissioners and three citizen members.

The budget calls for spending $50 million more than the 2019-21 two-year cycle, with federal funding and higher property tax revenue the key drivers, Otley said.

The county is projected to add 25 positions in the new budget, with 17 of them in the Health Department. The budget includes $25 million in new federal funding, mostly from relief legislation.

The commissioners signaled a willingness to appropriate more money to homeless programs during the Budget Committee session, and County Administrator Joe Kerby said he has a reserve fund of $500,000 in federal monies that could be tapped.

The additional spending likely would be used to implement recently approved recommendations of the Benton County Home, Opportunity, Planning and Equity Advisory Board, a joint Corvallis-Benton county undertaking on homelessness.

One of the recommendations of the HOPE board is to increase the number of county health navigators that could be a part of case management for the homeless.

Otley said that should the commission seek to appropriate more funds to work toward HOPE’s goals, such action likely will occur outside the budget process.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@lee.net or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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