'Performance-based budget' for Public Works Department introducedClatsop County's proposed 2005-06 budget includes funding to help tackle the growing local drug problem.

The county budget committee holds hearings today and Wednesday on the $52.8 million document, which uses a combination of new dollars and funds shifted from other programs to pay for extra substance abuse counseling and treatment.

The new staff positions were recommended by the Public Safety Coordinating Council, the 20-member board that represents the county's judges, prosecutors, police agencies and other entities.

The plan adds five new positions, including three counselors, to provide substance abuse treatment services for the county's drug court program. It also adds a full-time probation counselor for the county Juvenile Department.

Funding for the new positions includes $124,000 from the Special Projects Fund, which holds the county's share of state timber revenue, along with $24,000 from the Rural Law Enforcement District, $20,000 formerly used to match a Community Corrections grant, and other sources. The juvenile counselor would be paid for in part by county funds now used for courthouse security, which would be funded by other sources.

The PSCC recommendations sparked a minor dispute two months ago after County Administrator Scott Derickson issued a directive stating that any new spending proposals would have to be covered within the existing public safety budget.

District Attorney Josh Marquis complained that the policy would require officials to "cannibalize" existing programs to provide funding for new positions or services. But both the county commissioners and the PSCC endorsed Derickson's approach.

Overall, the proposed 2005-06 General Fund budget of $16.5 million grows by 4.5 percent over the current year, reflecting increased payroll costs and higher payments on the county's PERS bond, along with increased state timber receipts. The budget includes a 3.5 percent cost-of-living raise for county staff, with a 5 percent step increase for some eligible employees.

The budget contains the same $668,895 transfer of state timber dollars into the operating budget that's been included the past few years.

Derickson has also recommended putting in place some proposals from the recently completed long-range financial plan, including boosting the general fund contingency fund and implementing "performance-based budgeting," which measures the effectiveness of spending on various services. The Public Works Department has been chosen as the first department to try the new approach, which will be extended to other county departments.

The proposed budget also includes $2.9 million for the new reserve fund set aside to cover unanticipated costs for the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). Derickson has recommended boosting the fund to $3 million in the 2006-07 budget.

Last year the county commissioners authorized a 10-year bond to pay off the county's 48.5 million debt to the PERS system. Annual payments range from $1 million to $1.3 million, but the plan is estimated to save the county more than $10 million over longer-term repayment plans.

The new counselor positions recommended by the PSCC will help deal with a backlog of cases in the drug court program, which puts offenders arrested on drug-related offenses under intense supervision by the drug court judge and Community Corrections Department.

A study conducted by the National Institute of Corrections recommended that the PSCC take a bigger role in setting policy for the local criminal justice system.

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