COUNTY ERASES DEFICIT, BUT NOT WITHOUT COST

June 22, 2001 11:00 pm

GOLD BEACH A budget deficit of $154,891 for the fiscal year beginning July 1 was erased in an hour Wednesday afternoon by the Curry County Commissioners and assembled department heads.

The county will still get its new phone system, and cars will be purchased outright, saving lease payments.

Teamsters union and non-union employees will get their 6 percent employee contribution to the Public Employees Retirement System picked up by the county.

They wont, however, receive the 2.9 percent raises the commissioners had originally offered.

Details on the settlement with the Oregon Public Employees Union wont be disclosed until after the union members vote on it Monday.

The commissioners and other elected officials will not be getting the salary increases approved by the full budget committee.

When the commissioners and department heads met Wednesday, they faced a $154,891 shortfall for fiscal year 2001-02 caused by union negotiations, state funding cuts and revised revenue estimates.

Commissioner Lucie La Bont said she turned to Rocky McVay, executive director of the Association of O&C Counties, for a magic number.

Commissioner Marlyn Schafer said they knew there was an inflationary clause built into the new federal safety net program.

La Bont said McVay told her she could probably count on 1.5 percent more in federal funds, amounting to $50,000.

The commissioners felt that number was solid enough to plug into the budget, reducing the deficit to $104,891.

The commissioners ran into another problem Wednesday when they were asked to contribute $6,000 to the National Coalition of Forest Counties and Schools, one of the lobbying organizations that had helped pass the safety net program.

Schafer said, I dont think the general fund can handle it.

La Bont reminded her that Terry Hanscam, who represented the county at the coalitions national conference this year, said without the coalition there wouldnt be a safety net.

The commissioners will look into the legality of having the Curry County Road Department pay half of the dues.

Roadmaster Dan Crumley said he supports the coalition, but didnt know if his department should pay the dues.

The commissioners also removed the $25,000 salary study they had planned, reducing the deficit to $79,891.

Schafer said they would still begin the study in-house and budget the funds to complete it next year if outside help is needed.

One of the biggest sacrifices Wednesday was made by Jeff Hancock, who cut $24,059 from his budget for the Juvenile Department.

He had hoped to hire a full-time counselor to fill the position lost when he was named to head the department.

To help the county balance its budget, he said he could hire a half-time counselor instead, and cut $10,000 from his budget for juvenile detention.

He warned the cuts could cause problems in the communities, however. He said the state has already made cuts to Oregon Youth Authority programs, including the closure of boot camps.

He said even the reduced youth authority budget has not yet cleared the ways and means committees in the legislature.

We cant adequately supervise children in the community without a full time counselor, said Hancock.

La Bont asked if Hancock would still have to do counseling himself, in addition to running the department. He said everybody in the department will have to pitch in whenever possible. He warned it might also be difficult to find a counselor for the half-time position.

La Bont said the legislature has the opposite attitude from five years ago when it formed the boot camps and boosted the juvenile budget. She said she would do what she could with the ways and means committees.

Hancocks sacrifice, though painful, reduced the county deficit to $55,832. When he offered more, Schafer told him she didnt want him to end up with an insufficient cash-carryover for next year.

County Clerk Renee Kolen asked the commissioners if they wanted to cut the $11,000 emergency fund theyd set aside for elections.

Schafer refused, saying the county needed the fund in case citizens ever caused an extra election by petition.

Kolen said she could at least offer the commissioners $4,000 from projected revenue increases. That left the deficit at $51,832.

Public Health Director Barbara Floyd also stepped forward with $13,500 in new revenue from a Babies First grant. Sheriff Kent Owens offered $1,400 from a county parks grant.

With $36,932 remaining, Schafer suggested wiping out the deficit by reducing the countys $850,000 projected unappropriated fund balance.

The county uses that money to keep running until October when federal funds begin to arrive.

Schafer said if the county ends up with more money when the legislature completes the state budget, it will go back into the unappropriated fund.

At the start of the meeting, La Bont commended all the county department heads and employees for pitching in and helping during a rough budget year.

At the conclusion, Owens thanked the commissioners for the way they ran the budget process this year.