CLINTON — Despite a large crowd packed into the board room at the County Administration Building, the Clinton County Board of Supervisors heard only two comments during the public hearing on the county budget Monday.

Before the hearing began, Supervisor Jill Davisson told the group the board always appreciates feedback. She stated that, although she received several comments from community members after the board recently approved a 5.5 percent pay increase for county department heads and elected officials, she wished the input had come sooner.

“I am always very pleased to receive comments,” Davisson said. “But it would be so much more helpful if we received those before we actually voted. Then you can take that into your decision-making process.”

Chairman Dennis Starling commented on the 5.5 percent raise as well, stating that, although several people have “joked” with him about the pay increase, he feels county employees are deserving.

“They are very, very efficient — if you look at the county budget for the last 10 years, there is not a lot of waste,” Starling said. “Your elected officials and department heads are giving you the best value for your tax dollars.”

Davisson agreed, noting that she has gone through the county budgeting process 19 times, and while it is usually “one of the toughest things we do,” the process went rather smoothly this year.

“This year in particular was really well done,” Davisson stated, adding that department heads were “very conscientious” of keeping costs in line during tough economic times.

Mark Roberts, an employee with the Clinton County Conservation Department, addressed the board during the public hearing speaking on behalf of several wildlife conservation groups, including The Wild Turkey Federation and White Tails Unlimited. Roberts reported that these groups work hard to raise large amounts of money to support local wildlife habitats, and members were “100 percent disappointed” that a resource technician position in the Conservation Department, which would have overseen these properties, had been eliminated.

Melissa Peterson, an employee with Pathways, asked the board what could be done about the cuts the county is facing in mental health funding, stating her organization is “struggling to continue to provide services.”

Davisson stated that most people don’t realize that mental health is financed through its own separate fund, with a capped amount. The county does not have the ability to transfer any money into or out of that fund.

She added that Iowa is the only state to fund mental health this way, and noted that during a recent trip to Washington, D.C. she suggested state leaders take a “field trip” to other states where programs are run more effectively.

When Davisson suggested Peterson thank her employees for all their hard work, Peterson responded, “I’d like to do that with a 5.5 percent increase.”

The supervisors passed the budget unanimously, with Davisson requesting that Roberts’ request to reinstate the Conservation position be revisited.