GOLD BEACH Curry County is close to being able to present its budget committee with a balanced budget for fiscal year 2001-02, Commissioner Marlyn Schafer said Wednesday.

She said last-minute details will be worked out with department heads on Monday afternoon, but the budget is basically ready to go.

Schafer said fee increases, along with increased Oandamp;C funds from the federal government this year, allowed the budget to be balanced.

She said the additional Oandamp;C funds alone wouldnt have been enough, but $190,000 more could be generated by raising planning, building and plumbing fees.

Part of that, however, will go to pay for an additional building inspector to help cut down on costly delays for developers and contractors. Other county fees, from dog licenses and camp site rentals to maps, will also rise. Added to the increased building and planning fees, more than $200,000 will be generated to help balance the countys $355,000 deficit.

We have to run like a business now, said Schafer. Everything else is going up. The public has to expect fees to go up too.

She said fees in Curry County are still lower than in most other counties.

Commissioner Lucie La Bont also credited the balanced budget to cuts in some departments. She said Title 3 money, from the same law that increased Oandamp;C funds, helped too.

Schafer said the countys cash carryover of $650,000 should be close enough.

She said Animal Control is still about $8,000 over budget for the current fiscal year. The sheriff has cut costs to save $70,000, but that will be offset because Community Corrections is $93,000 over budget.

Basically, what weve done is stop the bleeding, said La Bont.

Schafer said even the departments that take no county general fund money are being watched closely.

The county will not pay their bills if they overspend, she said.

La Bont commended the department heads for changing their whole way of doing things.

Schafer said, Since 1991, no one has held them accountable.

She said department heads cut their own budgets to help other departments that were over budget.

La Bont cautioned that union negotiations could still affect the budget.

Schafer said the county will cap health insurance benefits at $550 per month for employees and their families.

She also said the county will stick to a 2.9 percent pay increase, not only for union employees, but for everyone.

Unfortunately, said Schafer, if union negotiations drag into the summer or fall, the county has to keep paying insurance rates under the current contract.