BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS'

WORK SESSION

February 5, 2008

8:30 a.m.

Lane Community College

APPROVED 2/20/08

 

Commissioner Faye Stewart presided with Commissioners Bill Dwyer, Bill Fleenor, Bobby Green, Sr., and Peter Sorenson present.  Joe Hertzberg was the Facilitator.  County Administrator Jeff Spartz, County Counsel Teresa Wilson and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present.

 

Outcome: Preliminary Service Selections for the Three Budget Scenarios.

 

Stewart recalled the Board had a prioritization of the budget last Wednesday and today is the second session.  He said the goal is to come to an agreement with three levels of prioritization to give to the budget staff.

 

Stewart reported that they were unsuccessful in getting into the Economic Stimulus Package that was working through Congress. He said the latest information he received from Cassidy & Associates last Friday stated their efforts are going to be shifted along with Wydenís Chief of Staff to work towards getting into the Supplemental War Funding Bill that might come before Congress in early April.  He said the report they received yesterday was there could be three or four options: a stand alone bill introduced by Congressman DeFazio and Senator Wyden, the Farm Bill, a tax incentive bill being discussed, and the Supplemental Bill.  He hoped they could get something by July 1.  He added that AOC didnít think serious conversations would take place with any of these bills until April and it would be optimistic to think something could be signed by June or July.  He said their recommendation is to budget like the money is not there and if the money comes through, work toward adding it back.

 

Dwyer asked about the timeline needed to be given for layoffs to honor contracts.

 

Greta Utecht, Human Resources, responded that the contracts require they give 14 days notice before they lay off employees.  She recalled last year when they went through the exercise, they asked departments to give them a preliminary list of the cuts in April so they could do the planning.  She commented that when they consider making the large cuts like the no renewal budget, it has an impact on all departments throughout the organization with bumping rights and how their individual decisions impact other employees.  She said in order to make sure they have honored the contract provisions, they have to start the process early or they have to overspend into the next budget season.  She thought they would need to start for the layoffs by mid-April and completing them by the end of June.

 

Fleenor asked what would happen if they gave up the Public Health authority status.

 

Rob Rockstroh, Health and Human Services, responded that if the local health authority doesnít do its job, the state could come in and charge Lane County.  He said they do not have to provide for HIV, school based health clinics or a physical activity nutrition program.  He said they have to do WIC, communicable disease investigation, family planning, immunization, maternal child health, TB based management, public health emergency preparedness, environmental health services, vital records and tobacco prevention education and enforcement.

 

Fleenor asked if the state would provide the service.

 

Rockstroh said the state would have no incentive to keep the services cheap.  He didnít know how it would get interpreted.

 

Wilson stated that what they donít know is what the bill from the state would look like.  She said they could give up the Public Health authority, save the discretionary general fund and in June 2009 the County could receive a bill from the state and they wouldnít know what it would be.

 

Sorenson asked if the County could be billed for communicable disease control.

 

Karen Gillette, Health and Human Services, said they presently receive about $400,000 for state support that requires them to do the communicable disease part.  She added if they donít fund that, they would lose the public health authority.  She noted that case investigation to reduce the spread of disease is mandated.

 

Green asked if something was an underfunded mandate if the state would bill the County for the actual cost, which is great than what they are getting.

 

Rockstroh commented that the state underfunds Lane County in everything they do.  He said any area they have authority over they are underfunded compared to smaller counties who have a lower cost of living.  He thought that it was an argument that they need to make with the state.

 

Stewart said they are going to have to recognize that they canít do everything and they need to be up in Salem telling the legislators what they are facing.  He said it is impossible to do all services with the funds they have.

 

Dwyer asked if they should get a legal opinion about the Countyís responsibility as it relates to not funding services.

 

Lisa Smith, Department of Youth Services, noted on line 22, there was no money allotted toward Prosecution of Juvenile Defendants and Dependency Court.  She added on line 27 of the no renewal budget, they funded 16 detention beds.  She commented that without prosecution of juvenile defendants, they canít keep kids in beds.

 

Dwyer suggested possibly going from five days per work week to three days.

 

Utecht responded that they were saving on the hourly salary but the fixed costs would not go down.  She said if they reduced all of the employees to half-time, they would still pay full-time benefits on the employees.  She added the risk cost would be the same, the buildings would have to be heated and the utilities would have to be run.  She said there would not be the magnitude of savings they think by cutting employee hours by 50 percent.  She said that most of the operations are 24/7 and they canít furlough or reduce the schedules for the positions in question.  She said in terms of the magnitude of savings, cutting schedules and furloughs would not get them what they wanted.  She added with union employees reduction in schedule is a lay off.

 

Russ Burger, Sheriff, said the Traffic Team helps keep the public safe and $1.2 million that comes from the road fund would go away if they relinquish the Traffic Team.  He added the three justice courts would be eliminated

 

Fleenor wanted to add back animal field and kennel services, WIC, number 10, 17, 22, level 1.  He wanted to know what the across-the-Board cut would be to balance the budget.

 

Garnick indicated they could do it for about $2.2 million.

 

Green asked about number 24, court transportation, and if Lane County is the only one that could do it.  He asked if some of their partners could help.

 

Burger said they are in the process of talking with the U.S. Marshals for a transport agreement which would be a revenue generating item.  He indicated the biggest portion of the expense is the process of releasing prisoners from jail to court every day, five days a week.  He added they are also responsible for civil process.

 

Sorenson asked if there was any legal problem with the budget and if the Board had the authority to enact a budget with cuts.

 

Wilson said the Board has the authority to enact a budget.  She said she sees significant risks they will be facing.  She said they could be facing a bill from the State of Oregon on their performance on Public Health Authority duties.  She indicated they could do that and decide they could deal with the risk a year from now.  She said there is a significant risk that if they are holding juveniles in custody without having had the prosecution, they could risk litigation. She said they could manage the risk by release.  She anticipated the Board would in the long run seek complaints from citizens for failure to provide service.  She said if this is the budget that goes forward, she would do a significant level of findings work for the Board to adopt where they document the balancing act of trying to assess risk, consequences and money.

 

Doug Harcleroad, District Attorney, said on the risk issue, there is a statute that had never been used in Lane County.  He indicated that it states if the District Attorney fails to appear in court to represent the state on a matter, that the court shall appoint a substitute District Attorney and send the bill to the County.  He said it means he canít file them if he canít cover them.  He stated that they would stop the prosecution of domestic violence cases in Lane County, stop the prosecution of driving under the influence, car thefts and other felonies.  He said the only thing they would be left with is violent felonies.  He said if they filed all the felonies, they would have problems prosecuting them and there could be some risk.

 

Alex Gardner, Assistant District Attorney, said the person felony prosecution represents a small percentage of the people who are put on probation.  He said the lionís share of people on felony probation is property and drug offenders.  He said when you cut that prosecution; you lose Community Correction Service dollars.  He said when you cut prosecution, they wonít be able to prosecute murders.  He said it will cost the County approximately $4 for every $1 they cut out of the DAís budget.

 

Stewart asked if they released someone from the jail because they only had 12 beds and that person committed a murder, what the liability of Lane County would be.  He asked if they could face a lawsuit.

 

Wilson said they could face a lawsuit.  She said what a judge or jury would decide is not easy to predict.  She said if they document carefully that the release was based on a discretionary decision made by the Board as to the funding and what services the County could afford to buy, then it falls within discretionary immunity.  She said if the system works the way it should, the citizens would be protected from having to pay a judgment on that lawsuit. 

 

Stewart asked if the judge could determine that the Countyís priority list was skewed.

 

Wilson explained that the judges are supposed to accord respect to the local governmentís discretionary decision.

 

Sorenson said they need to make the public aware of the level of risk and they need the public to be informed that this is what they have come up with despite the challenge of coming up with a balanced budget.

 

Green didnít hope for any support from the City of Eugene.  He said there are several councilors who are against any conversation about creating any special districts for public safety or revenue.  He said they have to make the hard choices.

 

Dwyer didnít want to do something now and find out there are unintended consequences that would make it more difficult later on.  He thought they were as close on the budget as they could be.

 

Hertzberg asked the Board if the straw budget in blue was the direction for the County Administrator to identify risks and to find further ways to stretch the dollars.  He indicated the budget is for $31 million. 

 

Stewart said if this is what the majority of the Board wants to give direction to, he wanted to have staff speak to the consequences they are facing making this recommendation.  He said he has received calls from people asking the Board about their priorities.

 

Spartz said they will begin to analyze the unfunded options or those that might be funded at lower levels than they have in the past.  He recommended sitting down with everyone in the criminal justice system to work together.  He said it doesnít do well if they canít balance the services.

 

Garnick indicated if they were going to stop the Traffic Team receiving $918,000, that it would also lose the $1.2 million.  He said there is no other traffic control activity going on and without that they wouldnít be eligible for the road fund money.

 

Burger added that the money would also go to support functions.

 

Garnick explained that the Traffic Team activity is going through the Central Lane Justice Court exclusively.  He said if Central Lane closes, the rural courts would have to close as well as they are all a system.

 

Rick Schulz, Sheriffís Office, said the $918,000 said they accounted for all of the general fund use as they were directed to.  He said the $1.2 million wouldnít go to the Sheriffís Office, it would go to general expense and it is in the leveraging information.  He said if they cut the Traffic Team, they would have to find another $300,000. 

 

Stewart asked what the pros and cons would be for prosecution to make it effective.  He indicated it was $217,000 to make the $1.7 million worth spending.

 

Smith indicated that was the District Attorneyís line item for prosecution.  She said it is for the attorney that prosecutes the juvenile delinquency and drug cases.

 

Hertzberg asked what the implication would be with severe cuts to Youth Services.

 

Smith responded that the implication would be over 800 admissions per year and they wouldnít be able to hold kids.  She added it would be the most dangerous juvenile offenders in the community that they could not hold in detention.  She added that these would be kids committing sex offenses, serious assaults, meth crimes.  She said these are serious youth offenders in Lane County.

 

Fleenor asked about the statutory requirements for Numbers 27 and 22.

 

Harcleroad indicated that the statute said the District Attorney shall assist the Juvenile Court and gives the judge the authority to tell him he needs assistance.  He commented that the Court in Eugene has been conservative in asking for assistance.  He said that was why they only do the 300 most serious cases.

 

Smith explained that Lane County is not mandated to have a detention facility if the population is under 400,000, but are mandated to have a Juvenile Justice System that shall provide for a continuum of services.  She said the reality is they have significantly dangerous kids who they still have to take to detention services.  She said it is expensive to try to go somewhere else.  She noted level one is 16 beds and it is half of what they have now and they are releasing kids with regularity.  She stated she was concerned about community safety.

 

Green asked if between the Sheriff, Police Chief and State Patrol, they could come together to respond to the elected officials at a policy level.  He asked if they reduced patrol if there would be risks and impacts to people.

 

Berger said currently there is not 24 hour coverage. He added if they were to take $5.3 million for law enforcement and reduce it, it represents one Sheriff for 16 hours of coverage.  He added there is also record keeping and dispatch functions that go along.  He said if they limit the ability to provide services, they wonít be able to respond to calls.  He said they received 2,978 calls between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.  He added if they went to just 20 hour coverage, there would be about 3,000 calls that they would not be able to respond to.  He noted there were 82,549 calls for service last year.  He indicated only the highest priority calls are being handled.  He said it would send a clear message to the community.

 

Green asked about the level of reserve with the $31 million straw poll.

 

Garnick responded that it is still at a 10 percent level but it drops down from $8.3 million to $6.6 million.  He said under the non-renewal budget, the direction was to cut more aggressively so they are making two years of cuts in one.

 

Spartz commented that he didnít know if reducing the reserve would take down the credit rating but it is a serious risk.  He thought it was wise to have a teleconference with the rating agencies to ask their opinion.

 

David Suchart, Management Services, reported they are going out for a bond sale this spring for the Public Health building.  He said they will have to if they are going forward with the construction.

 

Stewart commented that he couldnít see where they could come up with more money.  He said that all services are essential and important and people are going to be affected.  He was concerned with what was presented today.  He was concerned about the level of the District Attorneyís Office.  He thought they needed to prosecute all crimes.  He added that he was concerned about the level of the jail.  He said under the proposed budget they are lacking $217,000 for prosecution to put people in DYS.  He said they donít have the money and he was concerned that they couldnít do the health functions critical to the services.  He said until they adopt a budget, he would try to get federal money by talking to the legislators in Salem for their help.  He said they canít go to the citizens to ask for more money because the citizens have said no.  He commented that their choices were limited and not good.

 

David Crowell, Budget Committee Member, stated that this was the beginning and not the end and they have lots of work ahead of them to do.

 

Alice Kaseberg, Budget Committee Member, said she appreciated the head start the Board has made.

 

Scott Bartlett, Budget Committee Member, said he hoped they can save as many programs as possible.

 

Fleenor stated that Lane County has been hit with an economic tsunami which started in Washington, D.C.  He added the County hasnít done anything wrong.  He said they are struggling to balance a budget that will impact many peopleís lives.  He said they are going to do the best they can to maintain the services but they are struggling.

 

Dwyer commented that they have to make tough decisions.  He said they told the people on a number of occasions that it might come to this.  He said he doesnít feel guilty about the choices he has to make.  He recalled that they tried to be proactive because they canít rely on the government.  He said the system is anemic and the jails are overcrowded.  He said he did what he could and his hands are clean.

 

Sorenson commented with the $31 million budget it would be the worst case scenario and they would be zeroing out WIC, animal services, the Extension Service, emergency management, health services for high risk pregnant women and children, and other services.  He commented that these are people who are the least able and the most vulnerable to be affected by the cuts.  He said they as a Board need to be aggressively involved with Congress, the President, the Legislature and the Governor to minimize the suffering.  He thought it was a good start but it is not etched in stone.

 

Green stated that this is a process and there is a limitation to what they can do.

 

Stewart commented that they are at a point where creativity and suggestions are needed.  He hoped staff didnít feel that this is the bottom line.  He said they will need to step up and use voices to speak as loudly as they can to Congress and the Legislature to show what they are facing and hopefully they will have a better scenario than today.  He encouraged staff to review this meeting, to support each other and get the message out to the people they serve.

 

There being no further business, Commissioner Stewart adjourned the meeting at 12:10 p.m.

 

Melissa Zimmer

Recording Secretary