Pilot series will focus on county's options

Written by The Curry Coastal Pilot November 11, 2011 08:52 pm

 

If nothing changes, it will be about this time next year when Curry County government runs out of money.

Though this crisis doesn’t seem to be an open topic of public conversation here in the county, there are a lot of serious discussions elsewhere: a special summit among the governor and members of Congress, a weekly work session in the governor’s office, a joint task force of Oregon legislators, special negotiations between counties and congressional aides, and probably more that we’re not hearing about.

When we ask if anyone is coming up with any new ideas for solutions, we keep hearing the same answer: not really.

So beginning in Wednesday’s edition, the Curry Coastal Pilot will start a special series of articles examining the county funding crisis and the potential solutions. We’ll try our best to provide a working foundation for a way out of this mess. 

Here’s a preview of the potential solutions we’ll review: 

•Extended federal payments: Sen. Ron Wyden hopes to get a five-year extension of federal support through the budget impasse in Washington. Even that, however, would solve less than one-third of Curry County’s deficit.

•Renewed timber harvests: Oregon counties were promised they would reap the benefits of federal forests, but no timber sales means no revenue. Even if Congress approves, environmental groups are ready to object. 

•More budget cuts: The county says it is at bare bones, but some counties operate on less. How do they do it?

•Property taxes: We have the second-lowest tax rate for county government in Oregon, but 30 percent of residents are of retirement age – presumably on fixed incomes. Will voters approve a property tax increase?

•Other income: Realistically, are there other sources of income to operate county services?

•Default: What happens if Curry County can’t pay its bills, or provide mandated services? Does the state take over? Do we go back to being part of Coos County?

We’ll start looking at these and other topics on Wednesday.