As 2024 budget process begins, county leaders express an interest in evaluating how much data they’re asking agencies who receive county funding to provide
photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World
As Douglas County leaders begin the process of setting the 2024 budget, they seem especially interested in examining how much data the county is gathering from community partner agencies who receive county funding.
That was a prominent topic during a Douglas County Commission work session about the budget process Wednesday, and leaders like Commissioner Patrick Kelly expressed some interest in taking a look at the roughly 40 agencies who have funding reflected in the county’s budget to see whether any of them can be even more data-driven — and whether it might be beneficial to incorporate some performance indicators based on the funding the county distributes.
County budget manager Cammy Owens told commissioners that currently, most agencies who submit budget request forms provide fairly broad information like a summary of their organization, equity considerations and an analysis of their budget request. They’re also asked to align to a county focus area, Owens added, such as human services or economic development.
Other agencies’ data reporting, meanwhile, can be much more involved. This smaller group is comprised of agencies with “service agreements” who are subject to more stringent data reporting requirements. Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center is one of them, and must submit quarterly updates on patient counts and other impacts.
Bob Tryanski, the county’s director of behavioral health projects, told commissioners that gives the county a more thorough look at how its funding support is actually being utilized. That’s the principle difference between agencies that are categorized as operating under a service agreement, rather than just under a community partner agreement.
County administrator Sarah Plinsky said it’s worth further evaluating the metrics the county asks each of its community partners to measure, since not every agency in the county fits in a “neat, little box” based on functional areas or expertises like behavioral health or criminal justice.
“I think one of the things that we’ve struggled with is there’s so much variety among our community partners,” Plinsky said. “Trying to make a historical society that has no paid staff and receives $10,000 a year from the county do the same level of detail as Bert Nash … we struggle with that. Maybe you don’t need that level of detail for all (of them).”
County staff also laid out a tentative timeline for commissioners that details what work will be happening to develop the 2024 budget during the coming months. After soliciting funding requests from partner agencies and county departments during March and April, they’ll take part in budget review meetings in May and hearings with commissioners from July 5-10.
The process will culminate with the county hosting a public hearing for the “revenue-neutral rate” — the tax rate at which the county would collect the same amount of money in property taxes as it did in the previous year — and adopting the budget. The timeline targets Aug. 30 as the possible date for the hearing and vote from commissioners to adopt the budget.
In other business, commissioners heard from a handful of commenters who took issue with how the county records its meeting minutes during their regular meeting. The commenters said because the county hasn’t recorded the general public comment portion of weekly meetings since last summer — something the county has done so those comments will be omitted from the video recording the county posts on its YouTube channel — the minutes don’t show a proper representation of what the public says to county leaders when given a chance to speak to them directly.
The county’s minutes currently include a brief description of what folks say during general public comment, often a sentence or two long.
But commissioners stood by the current public comment procedure and the way county staff records meeting minutes.
“I’m comfortable with our procedures on that,” Kelly said during the meeting. “I understand that some community members are not, but I’m fine with our process so far.”