LANE COUNTY

BUDGET COMMITTEE MEETING

January 27, 2009

1:30 p.m.

Harris Hall Main Floor

APPROVED 4/15/2009

 

Alice Kaseberg called the Budget Committee Meeting. Chair David Crowell presided with Budget Committee members Scott Bartlett, Bill Dwyer, Bill Fleenor, Rob Handy, Denis Hijmans, Peter Sorenson and Faye Stewart present.  County Administrator Jeff Spartz, County Counsel Liane Richardson and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present.

 

I. PUBLIC COMMENTS

 

Judy Jarrett, Springfield, said she is concerned with public safety.  She stated that she is a Lane County employee.  She said the DUII evaluation scheduled to be dismantled sees 2,000 offenders and monitors them and refers them to treatment and keeps track of them while they are on probation.  She thought Lane County should fund the program because it has an effective monitoring system in place and all Lane County DUI offenders for the past 27 years have passed through the office.  She said they have records that help them make an appropriate referral to an appropriate treatment.  She believed the program could do the best job for Lane County citizens. 

 

Ann–Marie Bilderback, Eugene, urged the Board to consider the best course of action for the DUI system in Lane County.  She said that Health and Human Services has announced that it intends to close the DUI evaluation program by February 27.  She asked the Board to find a way to preserve the program.  She said the DUI evaluation program has contributed to the public safety of Lane County residents for over 27 years.  She indicated that the loss of income due to the inability to charge for the evaluations of clients re-referred for a second DUI has been cited as one of the main reasons that the program is not breaking even.  She understood a ruling from a judge is the only thing needed to override the inability to charge for re-referrals.  She said the DUI evaluation program generates income and it does not make sense for the County to close it at this time.  She said they will still obtain the evaluators as County employees, incurring the same cost without the revenue generated by the program.  She asked the Board to make public safety their number one concern.  She commented to close the DUII Evaluation Program will put the public in harm’s way.

 

Thaya McCown, said she is the coordinator for the Lane County Domestic Violence Council.  She said over the past 16 years the council has proven to effect change when they work collaboratively.  She  commented that they know the well being of the community depends on the well being of the families within their community.  She said no one entity can effectively diminish domestic violence, but their network of experienced professionals (given the right resources) can take the appropriate steps to assure the community is a safe place for survivors of domestic violence and their children.  She stated that as a council, they are concerned with making Lane County a safe place for survivors.  She said while they support prevention efforts, the fact is domestic violence is still rampant in the community.  She commented that with the lack of supervisory funding for batterers, there is little recourse to protect the women and children they abuse.  She said they cannot allow the safety and wellness of the community to be compromised any further.  She commented that the quality of life has taken a back seat to sustaining and protecting lives and she urged the Board to consider that as they make funding decisions.  She stated that safety is their priority.

 

Barbara Stoeffler, Eugene, said in 1973 her son met a violent death by a drunk driver.  She stated that she founded the Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Lane County.  She said that MADD and the Victim Impact Panel deal with death and destruction.  She stated that for 26 years she had watched law enforcement and the court system lose staff and effectiveness.  She commented that recent lack of jail space affects the system so negatively that offenders’ word of mouth is that nothing can be done to them if they do not appear as ordered. She asked the Board to think about the people and the tragedies.

 

Ann Pratt, Springfield, stated that she is the Vice President of Crime Victims United and she is an advocate for MADD.  She asked the Board to restore the County jail to a functioning part of the criminal justice system.  She said it was admirable that the Board wanted to reduce debt, but the top priority needs to be the safety of the citizens of Lane County.  She asked the Board if they thought about the legal actions that could take place against the County regarding crime.  She recalled that Multnomah County paid out several hundred thousands dollars in 2005 because their criminal justice system failed.  She asked the Board to fund the jail.

 

Stephanie Talbott, Eugene, Catholic Community Services, said in December 2007 they had 600 new applicants they had never seen before for services.  She added in December 2008, there were 900 new applicants. She indicated that they are seeing more families fall of the edge.  She indicated that there is a limit as to what agencies are going to be able to do.  She said she can’t serve an extra 900 people.  She encouraged the Board to fund the full package of requests the Human Services Commission has come with to the Board.  She encouraged the Board to fund the Level 2 request.  She said people will be falling through the cracks.

 

Bob Richards, Eugene, supported the Human Services Network and funding for the Buckley Center.  He recalled that last year they had a swap with the city of Eugene that kept them afloat for another year.  He is aware of the financial situation the County is in.  He commented that this crisis didn’t just hit Buckley three months ago.  He explained that for at least eight years they have been struggling every year to keep their facility open.  He indicated that there will be an impact to the community if they are to close.  He said they admit 5,000 people every year and most people will end up on the streets committing more crimes and clogging up the jails and the emergency rooms.  He said this year more than ever they will need funding.

 

Hal Reed, Eugene, believed that public safety is the first priority of local government and anything else shouldn’t be considered.  He said the County is in danger because the criminal justice system is not properly funded.  He commented that now is the time for local officials to make the hard decisions that need to be done.  He said there is enough money to fund public safety if the Board makes it the first priority.  He added then if the people want to fund anything else, they could put the issues on a ballot measure to see if people want to pay for them.  He thought people could get together to solve the problem.  He asked the Board to fund public safety as its first priority.

 

Duncan Murray, Eugene, said the first responsibility of government at any level is to secure the property and safety of the persons governed.  He asked the Board to elevate public safety to the number one priority.  He stated that the constituents elected the Board to keep the citizens safe.

 

Steve Dodrill, OSU Extension Service, urged the Board to look at their proposal for education in Lane County and things they do for the Extension Service to help with farms, gardens and 4H youth development.  He said they are trying to get the forestry program back.  He said if the Extension Service is not able to continue, they will be in a situation where they will have to close.  He hoped they could find ways to become self-sustaining so by spring 2010 they will be able to pull together revenue in order to operate and stay in Lane County.  He said they will need bridge funding. He said when tough times are hitting they are trying to help people grow food and to become self-sustaining.  He submitted letters from 12 people.

 

Barbara Kousky, Junction City, urged the Board to put safety and security as the number one priority for Lane County.  She noted on Lane County’s website, it states that Lane County government provides for the safety and security of Lane County’s citizens through Public Safety, Public Works, Human Services and Elections.  She said she hears there is the need for safety.  She asked the Board to consider safety as the number one issue.

 

Laura Hinrichs, Springfield, stated she is present on behalf of the Master Food Preserver volunteers.  She said they have risen to the budget challenge by increasing their ability to raise funds.  She stated that they have extended their educational outreach and made themselves into a better group.  She said they teach people the safe preparation of food and encourage the use of local products.  She indicated that they answer questions on the statewide hotline.  She said they made themselves into more than they were.  She asked the Board to help not just the Master Food Preservers, but all of Extension because it is a vital community resource.

 

II BENCHMARK TRENDS FOR LANE COUNTY

 

Rita Conrad, Executive Director, Oregon Progress Board, gave a power point presentation. (Copy in file).

 

III. WHY OUR HEALTH BENEFITS CONTINUE TO RISE

 

Greg O’Hanlon, Vice President, Johnson Group Benefit, gave a power point presentation.  (Copy in file).

 

Handy commented that they are at the position they are in because of negotiations that had taken place in the past.  He asked how they should look at things in the future.

 

O’Hanlon responded that a negotiated benefit program is part of a total compensation package.  He said the challenge is how to get the best value.  He said people look at the benefit program to see where the costs are going.  He commented that they see there is a huge value maintaining the level of benefits because they don’t get quite as much value as a cost of living increase.

 

Bartlett asked how O’Hanlon would explain Lane County’s plan.

 

O’Hanlon said that the County is more like a late model Ferrari.  He added that other counties have rich comparable packages.  He said that Lane County is on the upper end.  He commented that other counties have better plans but they have some type of employee contribution.

 

Crowell asked how Lane County was in comparison to the rest of the market.

 

O’Hanlon said that Lane County’s costs were higher because they have more early retirees.

 

IV. GENERAL FUND FORECAST

 

Dave Garnick, Budget and Finance Manager, recalled when they prepared the 08/09 budget, they started off with new timber renewal and a reduction to the County general fund of $18.1 million that would buy about three years of stability.  He said in FY 12/13, they would have a small reduction of about $427,000 and they would jump up to $3.2 million with reductions every year thereafter.  He indicated that the County is still in a structural deficit situation to where the County does not have sufficient revenue that grows fast enough to keep up with costs.  He added that health costs have been trending around 12 percent to 12.5 percent per year.  He said they found out in the process of the Board prioritizing the services that a reduction of this magnitude was so severe that it put the public health authority at risk and they had to close beds in the jail.  He said there was concern the whole system will not function appropriately.  He said the County Administrator recommended restoring $3.4 million in preparing the proposed budget.  He said at that point they are only going to cut $14.7 million.  He said instead of three years of stability, they only have two years of stability and that was given to the Budget Committee. He recalled during deliberations, they had hundreds of people come and talk about the drastic impacts that would happen if services proposed for reduction under the proposed budget actually occurred.

 

Garnick indicated in the process of  approving and adopting the budget, the Budget Committee and the Board added back another $4.1 million worth of services and in that process, the adopted budget had about $7.5 million restored and they cut $10.6 million overall.  He said the impact is that the more they spend, the closer the reductions get.  He said they are spending reserves and one-time monies.  He indicated the one time money was $3.1 million, but the reserves were one time money as well and no new money is coming in. 

 

Garnick said they began this year with a deficit.  He said in the fall and winter he looks at what the revenue and expenditure trends. Garnick recalled the Assessor recommended trimming down property tax revenue due to foreclosures and decreases in value.  Garnick said the Assessor recommended three percent growth.  He added at the same time they are seeing revenue in Deeds and Records go down.  He added the Traffic Team revenue hasn’t been keeping up and they were short last year.  He said in updating the forecast for the current year, the big reduction in 10/11 is still there, but because they are seeing less revenue for next year’s budget process, there will need to be a reduction of about $800,000.  He added that there will need to be another correction for 10/11 and a series of reductions for every year thereafter because of the structural deficit. 

 

Garnick indicated that there has been a request to see what six years of funding would look like, keeping the current service level funded for six years.  He said if they were to maintain what they currently have, they would need $771,627 to just fund services next year.  He noted in year two, $771,627 plus inflation would mean they would need $7.2 million to keep things currently funded with almost $9 million in 11/12.  He reported that by the end of FY 14/15 they would need about $15.5 million in that year to fully fund the services they currently have.  He said by year six, they would need a total of $55 million to keep their current services funded.  He explained that if they were to look at the timber money, they would actually receive and assume their best estimate in year four.  He added that they would just get 50 percent of what they otherwise would have.  He noted the total revenue would only be about $44,285,000 over the four year period, but they needed $55 million.  In order to get six full years of service, Garnick said they would have to take a $1.6 million reduction next year.

 

Garnick recalled that the County Administrator presented his recommendation to the Board to spend no more than $465,000 in the remaining five months of this year.  He said when those costs are annualized, if would be $1.1 million for 09/10. He said with the County Administrator’s recommendation they could sustain the current programs (plus small services he recommended adding) for a four year period and then they are back into making big reductions. He said they could spend what they want and it would be up to the Budget Committee to determine what direction they want to go.  He explained that this does not include the AFSCME bargaining agreement. He indicated that the forecast typically includes a two percent cost of living adjustment and the first year of the County’s offer to the union is above that.  He said there is an additional cost of $650,000 in 08/09 that is not built in.  He added that they should save some money that will be coming from the governor’s budget.  Garnick said the governor was looking at a $2.2 billion shortfall in state revenue.

 

Bartlett asked if AFSCME were to receive the same insurance the Board has if that would result in a cost increase or savings for the County and if those funds could be available to pay for add packages or to preserve services.

 

Garnick said if the union switches over to the standard plan it would be a $265,000 savings and that would reduce the amount of the overall cost of the plan. He said that would result in a long term savings.

 

Bartlett asked what the smallest increment of jail bed restoration could be considered by the Board.

 

Garnick responded that the Sheriff’s has said the next increment is $1.5 million for the next wing of the jail.

 

Spartz explained that based on the Sheriff’s calculation on what is needed for support, for additional opening of beds (and to make the whole system work) they would need an increment of 84 beds.  He thought 48 beds might be more desirable but to make it work it has to be an increment of 84 with the annualized operating cost of $1.5 million.

 

V. Honorable Mary Ann Bearden

 

Judge Mary Ann Bearden, Circuit Court, said they were informed on Wednesday afternoon by Rob Rockstroh, Health and Human Services, that there was a proposal to shut down ADES.  She stated that they haven’t had a lot of time to react.  She indicated that all judges who have signed onto a letter are in unanimous agreement that continuing ADES is best practice and is a small budget item.  She reported that they are responsible for over 800 referrals every year.   She noted that the people they are referring to ADES are not on supervised probation, they are unsupervised misdemeanants and people on DUII diversion.  She stated they see 1,900 people per year from all courts.  She recalled in 1981 when the decision was made that the best practice for Lane County was to do it in the way they have been doing it for 27 years, that decision has been carried forth and it has been a tremendous system.  She said that ADES is certified by the Oregon Department of Human Services and the Courts designate ADES to do the evaluations and referral.  Bearden indicated that Rockstroh made comments to The Register Guard that the referral and treatment evaluation is the Court’s responsibility.  She said the responsibility under 137.227(2) is for the court to designate the agencies or organizations to perform the evaluations whenever possible.  She added that the Court is mandated by the legislature to designate agencies or organizations to perform the evaluations that are separate from those designated to carry out the treatment.  She said the legislature has made it a system to avoid self-dealing.  She said if they prioritized this, they would have a tremendous risk.  She indicated that the judges who have signed on from different courts would need to get together to meet with the County to figure out a way to work it out.  Her basic philosophy is if it is not broke, don’t fix it.  She commented that it is not broken, it is largely self-supporting.  She understood that when general fund dollars were taken away from ADES , it was the hope that it would be completely self-supporting, but it is not. She commented that they need to find a way to privatize this.  She said they have to have a system that they trust and they need to keep good communication between the courts. She asked the Budget Committee to make this the most effective way to get people into the treatment they need.  She commented that it is a big issue for the citizens of Lane County, that they have people who are charged with driving impaired and that they are accountable and they are monitoring them and the coordination is good.  She said it would show commitment to treatment, which the community needs.

 

Judge Wayne Allen, Eugene Municipal Court, reported that they have over 500 cases with Lane County Mental Health.  He said each individual has either entered a guilty plea or a plea of no contest or have been found guilty of driving under the influence.  He said to him the most important part of the diversion or sentence is the treatment.  He said it is the one thing that would lessen the chance of it occurring again.  He said they have had a 27 year relationship with Lane County Mental Health.  He was skeptical that the private sector could do better. He commented that there are areas where government does do the best job.  He indicated that two councilors deal with 2,000 cases.  He said the councilors are committed to their jobs.  He indicated that they spend $767,000 per year with the County to have jail beds and road crew and a significant portion is used to enforce laws against driving under the influence.  He stated that there is no one legally qualified to do the evaluation in Lane County except for Lane County Mental Health.  He was concerned about the evaluator having their own business because they will take the best cases and send the others to the other treatment people. 

 

Handy asked what the challenges and opportunities are for the County.

 

Spartz explained that operationally the program is not broken, but financially it is.  He said they are losing $20,000 per month in Health and Human Services and there is no way to make it up.  He said there was no money appropriated out of the general fund for this.  He said it was a low priority during the budget process last year.  He discussed this with Rockstroh and he believed that there are people in the private sector who could make an economic go of this because they don’t have to pay the overhead like all programs in the County do.  He said if the Board wants to continue this, they have to find the $300,000 per year to subsidize it.

 

Karen Gaffney, Health and Human Services, recalled that she was before the Board last spring and if the entire general fund was removed from the program, they weren’t sure they could make it work.  She indicated that they have tried to do that for the past six months and they have had to look at models other counties  have used to provide the same service.  She said the Courts are able to designate other entities to do it.    She indicated that they have people who were interested who said if they move to that type of model, they would be willing to have the courts appoint them and they were qualified.  She stated that the money is not there to support the program.

 

VI. PUBLIC COMMENT

 

Lois Harvick, Eugene, said she is the Secretary of the Board of Directors of the DUII Victim Impact Panel and Executive Director of MADD Eugene.   She stated that MADD had been an important part of the community for 25 years.  She said they have seen and heard from many victims.  She commented to allow criminals to serve minutes in jail or no time at all is a slap in the face to a victim.  She said the programs are necessary in protecting the citizens.  She said if the jail and the programs with it are not fully funded, there will continue to be violent drunk drivers who should not be on the road or in public, according to the courts. 

 

Kierra Cummings, Springfield, spoke about her father and sister who were killed by a drunk driver.

 

Mary Bradley, Eugene, stated that she is a coordinator for Food for Lane County.  She explained what they accomplished this year at the Grassroots Garden.  She commented that with more agricultural land being used for biofuels and less being used for consumption crops, Food for Lane County and other food banks across the country are facing more of a fresh food deficit.  She said they need to grow more food because it is needed as more people are being laid off.  She stated that she couldn’t operate the garden or make use of efforts of people from the community if it were not for the Lane County Extension Service and the Master Gardener Program.

 

Emma Roe,  said that she has been with 4H since she was six years old.  She said keeping kids involved in 4H is important and she asked the Board to keep 4H in the budget.

 

Linda Kelly, Eugene, Food for Lane County, said they have partnered with cooking and nutrition classes and working with people with limited incomes.  She said if they are going to help people use food staples, they need the help with outreach.  She stated that the Extension Service is an important partner.

 

Jennifer Johnson, Eugene, stated that without Womenspace and Shelter Care she wouldn’t be here today.  She thanked for all of the help up to this point.

 

Pat Walsh, Eugene, supported the Human Services Commission for additional funds for families in need in the community.  He said due to economic times, more people are accessing the services provided by the agencies.  He added that many people are contacting these agencies for the first time. He said financial support has decreased.  He indicated the United Way had cut funding and the state budget reductions have begun to take a serious toll.  He said the basic needs need to be given to people who can least afford to help themselves.  He urged the Board to spend $484,647 of the Secure Rural Schools money to assist and maintain the Human Service Commission non-profit support structure.

 

Shirley McSilvers, spoke about her experience with the Extension Service. She stated that she has been a successful woman and she has contributed to society due to the Extension Service.  She asked the Board to find a way to keep Extension in Lane County.

 

David Hoffman, Eugene, stated that priorities should be food, shelter and clothing.  He stated that food should come first.  He stated that Extension must be funded.

 

Janet Calvert, Eugene, commented that safety and health are not free.  She hoped that Lane County citizens will realize that there is no free lunch and they will have to pay for the services they need and should have. She thought citizens were willing to pay for those things they truly value.  She hoped citizens would express their views about Extension.

 

Rita Castillo, Springfield, was in favor of keeping as much money as possible for Human Services.  She commented that things are desperate.  She said crime and blight could take place.

 

Sarah Mazze, Climate Leadership Initiative, said the County needs Extension to take on the climate leadership initiative and continue to provide it for the community.  She indicated they have secured funding for sustainable environment to establish youth focused climate master  program in partnership with Extension.  She hoped the Board would continue to fund Extension.

 

Cheryl O’ Neal, Junction City, Executive Director of Womenspace, told a story about a survivor of domestic violence.  She stated that Womenspace turns people’s lives around.

 

Sorenson wanted the citizen members to see the different scenarios.  He indicated the computer program could show different scenarios.

 

Garnick said they will ask the Budget Committee what scenarios they would like to see.  He said they could build up to ten different revenues and expenditures.

 

Spartz said there is question whether to take some of the Secure Rural Schools funding to use it to pay down long term debt.  He said it was a difficult trade-off to make.  He thought the Board could get some information.

 

Crowell indicated the County Administrator’s recommendation was $465,000 add back of services.  He thought it was not a big percentage of the $44 million.  He wanted to be part of the decision regarding paying down debt and/or how to spend it for the next four or five years.

 

Bartlett recalled that the Board of Commissioners received a letter from the Lane County Animal Services Advisory Committee and from Dr. Boggs.  He asked if some of the killings could have been prevented if there was a modest investment in either veterinarian care or CVT care.  He asked what the alternatives could be to mitigate that situation.

 

Karen Gaffney, Health and Human Services, responded that a lot of the animals in their shelter require medical services in order for them to be adoptable.  She indicated that their budget as adopted has no positions for medical staff.  She said they put together extra help to cover that.  She said a package was submitted for a full-time certified vet tech to provide basic medical services for the animals in their care.  She added that the Animal Services Advisory Committee recommends going further and establishing a full-time veterinarian position given the number of animals they have in their shelter 24 hours a day, seven days per week and to supplement that with a half-time certified vet tech.  She commented that most shelters have medical staff on board. She thought a position to provide medical staff would be the minimum from their perspective in recommending a CVT for the minimum amount of care.  She said it was $36,277 for a certified vet tech and some medical supplies for a five month period.

 

There being no further business, Chair Crowell adjourned the Budget Committee at 4:40 p.m.

 

Melissa Zimmer

Recording Secretary