The public hearing for the 2018 Douglas County budget is Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse.
Among the proposed budget’s highlights are the hiring of three new sheriff’s deputies, the creation of a second pro tem position in Douglas County District Court and nearly $2 million in funding for new behavioral health initiatives.
The Douglas County Commission will consider adopting the budget at the conclusion of the hearing. The County Commission will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.
Property tax increase
Commissioners voted to set the maximum budget at $92.69 million, which would be supported with a 45.853 mill levy. That is a 1.916 mills mill levy increase from the current year. Taxes on a single-family home are levied at 11.5 percent its assessed value, and a mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of that value. A 1.916 mills mill increase amounts to about $38.50 of new property taxes per year on a $175,000 home.
Behavioral health spending
New spending on behavioral health initiatives are driving much of the tax increase. The budget would provide:
• Lawrence Memorial Hospital with $400,000 to help it add a behavioral health crisis stabilization center.
• About $900,000 to allow Bert Nash Community Mental Health Inc. and Heartland Community Health Center to each hire two new psychiatrists.
• $397,000 for a pilot program creating a multi-agency team to provide intensive case management for people with mental illnesses. The team will work to ensure those leaving the LMH crisis stabilization center obtain the services needed to help prevent future emergency hospital visits or complications with law enforcement.
• $150,000 for DCCCA to provide detoxification services for Douglas County, which does not have a residential detoxification center. The funding will be used to place county residents in the unused beds of treatment centers in other counties. The program primarily would be available to uninsured men who don’t qualify for Medicaid.
• $110,000 to fund a pilot program between the Douglas County Jail and DCCCA. The program would help female inmates with substance abuse problems get treatment and other needed services to get them clean and to avoid future criminal activity.
Pro tem judge
The budget would provide $130,000 to hire a second pro tem judge for Douglas County District Court. The funding would also provide the new judge with an administrative assistant. Although the new pro tem could not be involved in criminal cases beyond preliminary hearings, it is hoped the new judge could relieve the court’s six district judges of duties so that they would have more time for criminal cases.
District attorney’s office staff additions
The budget provides $322,088 to hire a new attorney and equipment needed to review video from the body cameras Lawrence police officers will be equipped with next year. Another $89,000 will fund an additional attorney needed to help with the increased caseload from a second pro tem judge.
New sheriff deputies
County commissioners have agreed to provide $211,133 to hire three of the five new sheriff’s deputies Sheriff Ken McGovern requested. The deputies will be added to the patrol unit.
The budget provides approximately $900,000 for employee longevity, merit raises and adjustments to the county’s pay scale for positions found to be undercompensated in the market.