The special Curry County Citizens' Committee meets for the first time today, in an all-day session aimed at walking the volunteers through the fiscal crisis that's coming in our direction. We wish them luck, but we don't believe they will find any "silver bullet" kind of solution.
Meanwhile, the Pilot's series of special reports on the county's budget situation has covered how we got here and the problems facing a few of the most obvious solutions: continued federal payments, higher property taxes, further cuts to the budget, and finding other revenues.
We have a couple topics in our series left to go. We waited to explore renewed federal timber harvests until a new proposal was introduced in Congress, and we want to look at the worst-case scenerio: What might happen if Curry County coffers actually do run dry about this time next year.
Already, however, our series of special reports seems to be having an effect. People are paying attention to the problem that county officials have been worried about for years.
Because of our focus, more Curry County citizens volunteered for the special committee. Our series of stories has provoked more letters to the editor with ideas, observations and complaints. While we worry that the coverage has been mostly "old news" about things we have written about time and again, we are hearing more conversations about what might be needed.
While the Citizens' Committee is a fresh start with a fresh look, it is not the first group of volunteers, nor the only special panel trying to solve this problem. A committee of Curry County volunteers meets every year to review the budget. A Blue Ribbon panel went through lots of ideas before proposing the tax levy that was soundly defeated by voters last year. Two state blue ribbon reports on the topic came with no suggested solutions. Currently, an interim legislative task force has met once and a special work group in the governor's office is meeting weekly.
The differences now are in timing and impact. The crisis will happen July 1, and there are very few chances for voters, the legislature or Congress to find solutions.
And what's happening in Curry County is right around the corner for several other counties across Southern Oregon.