FAIRBURY - The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners held a 2019-2020 budget hearing during Tuesday's meeting at the courthouse.

The county's operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year is $6 million, which is up from $5.4 million last year. A big reason for this increase, chairman Mark Schoenrock says, is for the increase in jail and attorney costs, which takes up about $750,000 on its own.

"I do believe our attendance support and diversion programs will make a difference," he said. "If we can keep young people in school. If people do get in trouble, if we can address those issues through our program rather than having them set in jail for $90 every day, those are costs our county will save if we can address the problem up front."

The county is entering its second year of providing diversion and attendance support programs, designed to keep juveniles out of trouble. These programs costs roughly $120,000 annually, but Schoenrock believes these programs will save county hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long haul.

"Legal costs, lawyers, jail, law enforcement, medical, dental, transportation...there's a lot of money that goes down that rat hole," Schoenrock said. "When you look at the overall costs, this is a much more cost efficient way for us to address the problem."

On Aug. 27, the board voted to raise the county tax levy rate from 27.9363 cents to 32 cents. The county also added three new positions - one with the county attorney, one with the clerk of the district court office and another in the IT department.

The highway department saw no budget increase after seeing a $500,000 cut the previous year. This comes after many roads saw damage from heavy rain and snow in the spring, and more rain into the summer.

The county commissioners have had budget meetings with department heads for the past six weeks.

Commissioner Michael Dux said he's been contacted by more constituents about the budget this year than ever before. However, he noted that public attendance and input at their meetings has been low, despite the outcry.

"I would like (constituents) to make comments to us," Dux said. "What kin of services they want from the ambulance department, the road department, earlier in the game rather than the last minute when the decision has to be made."

You can follow Tommy on Twitter @Tommy_NCN.