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Commissioners chip away at $750,000 deficit

Curry County commissioners face grim job of deciding what gets the axe. ().
Curry County commissioners face grim job of deciding what gets the axe. ().

By WILLIAM LUNDQUIST

GOLD BEACH The Curry County budget deficit for the coming fiscal year shrank by $103,830 during Fridays day-long budget workshop.

The cuts will cost the County Assessor one appraiser, and the County Clerk one employee for her recording and elections offices.

No current employees have lost their jobs so far, but the positions recommended in the countys new financial plan will not be filled next year.

County Assessor Jim Kolen said a reorganization of his office had resulted in the replacement of a full-time appraiser with a half-time one.

Without the appraiser he had planned to hire, his office is now down one-and-a-half appraisers from where the financial plan said it should be.

The plan also recommended another employee in the clerks recording office and one more in the elections office.

County Clerk Renee Kolen said the positions were needed because of an upsurge in mortgage and refinancing recording work, and to replace employees who had left the elections office.

County Commissioner Marlyn Schafer told her she could have one additional employee to split between both offices.

When the day began, Schafer said the countys deficit for the coming year was $608,000.

Commissioner Lucie La Bont said shed heard the Douglas County Road Department pays for half a deputy position by putting a shovel in the patrol car so the deputy can fill potholes.

County Roadmaster Dan Crumley said he didnt know how the auditors would feel about that, but agreed to find out if the rumor was true.

La Bont also pushed to drop the countys Developmentally Disabled program and turn it back to the state.

She said a lobbyist for the Association of Oregon Counties told her the state will pay private brokers 8 percent to administer the program, but only 1.5 percent to have counties do it.

She said that was because clients had lobbied for private brokers to run the programs.

Commissioner Rachelle Schaaf said shed been told the program would lose flexibility and be harder for clients to access if it was turned over to a private broker.

Besides, she said, the countys Human Services Department counts on the cash flow from the program.

La Bont said, I cant support it unless the state pays us 8 percent. She said dropping the program would save the county $100,000 over five years.

The commissioners went through the budget line by line with some department heads Friday, and will do so with the rest Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Road Department

The Curry County Road Department is funded by the state gas tax, and Crumley has built up sizeable reserves.

It contributes 6 percent of its budget to the countys general fund to pay for indirect costs divided between all county departments.

The county also borrows money annually when its cash-carryover is not large enough to run the county until federal payments arrive in November.

Crumley said motor vehicle tax revenues are down slightly this year, and interest income is down a lot.

Still, he said, he was able to balance his budget and put $373,000 in the reserve fund. That fund can be used only for road projects.

Crumley said with $17 million in the fund, his department could handle a major highway emergency without having to wait for federal disaster aid.

He estimated his department would spend $1,850,000 in capital outlay on road improvements, right-of-way purchases and equipment replacement during the next fiscal year.

Schafer said since the county general fund gets 6 percent of the Road Departments revenue, Crumley should include a projected 1.15 percent increase in federal O&C payments to his department.

Crumley is also proceeding with the countys plan to save money by purchasing vehicles outright instead of leasing, and building a vehicle replacement fund to do so.

Schafer said she wanted to put $75,000 in that fund this year. She said when the fund is large enough, the county will be able to purchase vehicles when it can get the best deal, not just when a vehicle fails.

Home Health/Hospice

Director Lori Kent once again turned in a balanced budget. Her department uses no county general fund revenues.

She said there had been some increase in Medicare revenue, which Congress might raise more in October.

On the other hand, she said, Congress might drop the additional money now added on for rural counties.

She said Medicaid hasnt increased payments per patient in 20 years. Those patients now make up about 10 percent of Home Health clients.

Kent said if federal payments decline, she will cut her other materials and services account before she will cut staff.

Schafer said all departments outside the general fund will now be charged $391 per employee per year for use of the county counsel, and $130 an hour for support from Computer Services.

Its the cost of doing business, said Schafer. The general fund departments are now paying all of it. This will show the true cost of programs.

County Assessor

Schafer said, Im frustrated at how much it costs to collect what little we get.

She said county departments needed for the property tax system cost more than half of what county government gets in taxes.

Kolen said the amount coming into all the taxing districts in the county, however, adds up to about $16 million.

Schafer said she checked, but there is no way to charge other taxing districts their fair share.

Kolen said the additional appraiser was needed because his department cannot keep up with reappraisals and check on hot-spots the way it needs to.

He said keeping up with real market values has become critical with Measure 50, which he said created more headaches than it cured.

He said hed already lost two appraisers in recent years.

The total saved by not filling the position he wanted to was $57,847, counting salary, benefits, vehicle and other assorted costs.

With the budget cut, however, the Assessors Office budget went down, costing it revenue from the state A&T Grant.

The actual savings from cutting the appraiser position was about $43,000.

Kolen wanted to remind the Elected Officials Compensation Board that he is now the fifth-highest paid person in his department.

Were here to serve, said Schaaf, serve til it hurts.

Commissioners Office

The commissioners have not included raises for themselves in their proposed budget.

By cutting overtime pay, training, travel, equipment repair, office supplies, copy expenses, and long distance, they were able to cut another $6,426 out of their proposed budget.

County Clerk

Cutting one of the employees to be added to the recording and elections offices saved $36,005.

Kolen said she understood the need, but asked the commissioners to work with her if irregular employees are needed to keep up with the record level of deed and mortgage recording.

District Attorney

By cutting estimated funds for witness costs, mental and medical exams, legal advertising, archiving, and other materials and services, District Attorney Charlie Steak was able to save the county $16,899.

He warned he may have to come back and ask for funds later if there is not enough left to cover emergencies and unanticipated costs.

The commissioners asked him why he was lowering his estimates by that much.

Im reducing those costs because I need my employees more than I need that.

He criticized the commissioners for speculating about potential personnel cuts in Wednesdays budget workshop.

That was a horrible thing to do to the morale of your employees, he said.

Emergency Services

The commissioners tried to figure out a way to charge all departments for what Emergency Services Coordinator Mike Murphy does.

They also cut $1,500 from his budget for equipment and equipment repair. He said he wont be able to repair the Ham radio wind generator on Bosley Butte that someone shot out.

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