Hood River — Hood River County’s Budget Committee May 13 approved the 2021-22 county’s $43.1 million all-funds budget, adding salary increases to last-minute changes. The general fund, the portion of the budget supported in part by property tax revenues, makes up $23.4 million of the total.

The Budget Committee increased County Commissioners’ $15,904 annual salaries by 10 percent for 2021-22, in an attempt to bring salaries into line with other county commissions. Wasco County’s three part-time commissioners, for example, are paid $47,680.08.

The Committee also raised the Commission Chair’s salary by 20 percent. The chair’s duties include additional meetings with staff to set meeting agendas.

Hood River County’s Budget Committee includes the county’s five commissioners, and five additional public members. The county commissioners were excused from the discussion and the vote on their own salaries.

“Commissioners are not paid enough,” said Rich McBride, a former commissioner now on the Budget Committee. Last year, commissioners got no increase in salary.

The entire Budget Committee also approved an increase to the County Sheriff’s $99,444 current salary, adding the cost of living plus 2 percent for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Mike Oates and Buck Parker voted against the increase, suggesting it wasn’t enough.

“I don’t think you’re in the ballpark,” Oates said.

The committee also approved an increase for the $72,071 salary for the Justice of the Peace, adding the cost of living plus 1 percent. The cost of living percentage has not yet been precisely calculated for the 2021-22 fiscal year, although 3 percent is set aside in the budget.

The committee also approved $50,000 to begin a survey of county facilities to better determine a maintenance schedule.

The resolution adopting the budget and levying taxes will be considered in a public hearing June 21.

In his budget message to the committee, County Administrator Jeff Hecksel noted the impact of the pandemic on the budget, including the additional $4.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act over the next two years.

“There is very little normal about these years and the county’s finances have been affected,” he said.

Among adopted changes next year are an additional public nurse and finance position, a parks position, additional deputy and court security positions, two additional employees (1.8 FTE) in the district attorney’s office, among other additions.

The 243-page 2021-22 budget is available at www.hoodrivercounty.gov/government.