GOLD BEACH Curry County may once again have to borrow money from its road department to allow the government to run from July 1 until federal payments arrive in October.

That idea was mentioned along with others at a Friday workshop as the county commissioners prepared to give budget directions to their assembled department heads at 9 a.m. Monday.

Commissioner Marlyn Schafer said the loan is the only way to keep the government running from July to October.

Though she wanted to do that with a genuine cash carry-over this year, the money had already been spent by the previous administration.

The county has borrowed from the road department in recent years, and paid it back each year when federal funds arrived.

The new federal payments law will provide the county with more money for fiscal year 2001-02, and Schafer wants enough of that set aside so that the county has a real cash carry-over for the next year.

Unfortunately, she said, that means the county wont be able to use the money to repair its decaying communications system, or to install a state-mandated sprinkler system in the jail.

When Schafer gives budget directions to the department heads Monday, she will ask them to factor in electric rate increases of 40 percent.

She said it is too early to tell yet, but her discussions with Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative led her to anticipate a rate increase of 30-50 percent.

She will also ask the department heads to factor in a 10 percent increase for sewer and water, and a one-step salary increase for their employees.

Insurance companies have told Schafer that rates will stay the same for employees in the Oregon Public Employees Union, but will rise 10 percent for those in the Teamsters union.

Schafer also worked with Fiscal Services Accounting Manager Geoff Buchheim to break down occupancy costs into janitorial, electricity, water and sewer, insurance, and building repair and maintenance.

She said those add up to about $229,775 a year, just to open the front door. The county governments entire tax revenue is only $830,219.

Commissioner Lucie La Bont said the staffing level in every department is too low for the workload.

Theyre stretched too thin, she said of the employees. We have to get rid of something.

She said the same is true in the commissioners office, where County Counsel Jerry Herbage lost 10 days of vacation because he could not get away to take them.

La Bont said another full time person is needed in the office just to answer all the phone calls and questions from citizens who walk in.

Commissioner Cheryl Thorp asked if the others had seen a memo from District Attorney Charlie Steak saying each of the countys two probation officers have 120-140 cases.

We have to make hard decisions, said La Bont. We cant run government at this level with these resources.

The commissioners agreed to ask the department heads to meet with their liaison commissioners the week of March 5.

Those meetings will be followed by budget workshops with the commissioners on March 20, 21 and 22.

The commissioners hope to have a balanced budget to present to the county budget committee when official budget hearings begin in April.

Everybody has to pull together for the next four months, said Schafer. We will be able to breathe July 1.