Benton Co. Commissioners target gangs and mental health care in - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Benton Co. Commissioners target gangs and mental health care in spending public safety tax money

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KENNEWICK, WA. -- Benton County Commissioners met with Prosecutor Andy Miller Tuesday to announce how they'll be spending about a million dollars earned from the 0.3% voter-approved public safety tax. 

$1.5 million in this year's budget will be going toward new sheriff's deputies, a brand new mental health court that officially got underway last week, expanding the adult drug court and much more. The money also includes new public health nurses to perform calls on at-risk families with children. The county also plans to spend $500,000 on an anti-gang program targeting middle school students. 

Back in 2014, tax payers approved a 0.3% sales tax increase with the direct intention of helping public safety. Tuesday, Benton County announced where they'll be spending that tax. 

So far, Benton County has received $7 million from the sales tax increase and has allocated $4.5 million. All of the money must be spent specifically on public safety. 

The commissioners announced the new additions Tuesday afternoon, adding that it will help make our area safer. 

"I will say as somebody who's been involved in the process," Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller said. "I can't think of a single person from the public who's come to the board of commissioners, the law and justice council and offered a specific program or idea that is not included in this package."

Things got a little testy in the meeting when a few people, including former commissioner Claude Oliver, questioned why the commissioners didn't try to spend more money for mental health care. 

Prosecutor Miller said it wouldn't fit within the public safety requirement. Also adding they made a huge step addressing the mentally ill with the new mental health court program. 

If you want to learn more about the public safety tax, click here to go to Benton County's website: http://www.co.benton.wa.us/pView.aspx?id=10882&catid=45

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