LANE COUNTY BUDGET COMMITTEE MEETING
February 9, 2010
6:00 p.m.
Harris Hall Main Floor
APPROVED 4/29/2010

Chair Alice Kaseberg presided with Budget Committee Members Scott Bartlett, Bill Fleenor, Rob Handy, Denis Hijmans, Cindy Land, Pete Sorenson, Faye Stewart and Rose Wilde present.  Bill Dwyer was excused.  County Administrator Jeff Spartz and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present.

I. CALL TO ORDER

Alice Kaseberg, Budget Committee Chair

II. COMMITTEE BUSINESS

A. Approve Lane County Budget Committee Minutes of February 2, 2010

MOTION: to approve the minutes with the recommended corrections from Handy. 

Handy MOVED, Fleenor SECONDED.

VOTE: Unanimous

III. LONG TERM FINANCIAL PLANNING

Christine Moody, Interim Financial Services Manager, explained what Lane County has done and why they do long term financial planning.  She discussed the handout on Long Term Financial Planning for Governments. (Copy in file.) 

Handy asked how Moody is making plans for going off the cliff.

Moody responded that the SOS sheets have been the biggest tool for reviewing the level of services and mandates internally.  She commented that they are stuck with the mandates and if they fall below a certain level, the County will be charged to perform that level of service.  She indicated that Stewart is involved in looking at legislative changes at the state level, defining a County of fiscal stress and multiple Oregon counties are facing the same situation.  She indicated Lane County is at a stable service level until 2012/2013. She stated they currently have $75 million in the discretionary general fund.

Bartlett asked what percentage of the discretionary general fund is lost from when SRS was announced to the end of the fiscal year.

Moody replied that $18 million each year goes into the general discretionary fund.  She noted the general fund is around $100 million with $75 or $80 million in the discretionary fund.  She recalled that October or November was the last payment of Secure Rural Schools funding and that lasts until June 30, 2012.

Sorenson asked why they couldnít make cuts now and not have deficits into the future.  He asked why they would have three years of no cuts and then a year of cuts totaling $20 million.

Moody indicated this was the direction last year and it assumes current level of services going forward.

Sorenson asked if they could prepare another budget.  He asked what they could do to warn people.

Spartz responded that in order to have had multiple budgets, they would have had to have started last October.

Bartlett asked if there was a practice wherein steps are taken to mitigate the future.  He also asked if there was budgetary science that could soften the impact by doing things each year.

Moody noted there are tools used. She commented that Oregon is unique in that there are so many counties in trouble.  She stated that they donít want to do across the board cuts, they want to look at services and make policy decisions and look to keep services.

Spartz said one area where the Budget Committee has major discretion is in public safety.

IV.  BONDED DEBT REPORT

Mike Barnhart, Finance, gave a power point presentation on the Lane County Bonded Debt Report.  (Copy in file).

Hijmans he asked if bonding decisions would come under the Budget Committee.  He wanted them to cover the issues sooner than later.

Moody responded the bonding decisions do not go to the Budget Committee.

Fleenor thought they could have a discussion as the Budget Committee on bonding recommendations.

Hijmans said they need to be prepared on all types of bonding issues.

Fleenor said this would be part of their decision making.

Hijmans said if they are going to make a philosophical decision, they need to do it sooner than later.

Fleenor asked to add an agenda item:  A discussion for future bonding philosophical decision making.

V.  STATE BUDGETING AND LEGISLATIVE INFORMATION

Alex Cuyler, Intergovernmental Relations Manager, reported the state released their economic forecast yesterday.  He discussed Oregonís Budget Issues. (Copy in file).

Land asked if there was something they could as a Budget Committee to say this situation is urgent and there will be serious ramifications.  She didnít want to have to make horrible decisions in 2012.

Cuyler responded they may want to go through the recommendations.  He noted the Budget Committee may realize some things are more important or more applicable, to identify those and give direction through the budget staff.

Sorenson thought they shouldnít spend the money now they and then the following year they have a $17 million cut.  He said they should cut the budget in this year unless they get some help.  He indicated that he is going back to Washington, D.C. to see if they can get the funding extended.

Bartlett recalled DeFazio last November urging the Board to be conservative with regard to spending the SRS funding and to hold on to as much as possible.  He asked if there was any serious effort in Wyden or DeFazioís office to pursue ways to resurrect the extension.

Cuyler said Lane County is participating in a campaign called Campaign for a Rural America, to bring support to their local delegation.  He said they are trying to bolster support that SRS funding is important for counties across the United States.  He said he is worried about the other members of Congress, not the local delegation.

VI.  LOSS OF TIMBER PAYMENTS (SRS) BUDGET COMMUNICATIONS

Moody asked how to communicate the impending loss of SRS funds without crying wolf and to be accurate looking out two years.  She noted the financial summary section of the Budget talks about the general fund analysis and discretionary general balance cuts from the prior 15 years.  She noted there are property tax limitation and details with the fund.  She recalled that they compared Lane County with four comparable counties with similar population.  She reported there are pie charts in the Budget that show where the general fund is being expended.  She said they look by type of service where discretionary general fund is going.  She stated that public safety takes 54 percent of the discretionary general fund.  She indicated preparing doing another budget was not feasible.  She added if they have to refine the budget, they are able to do a supplemental budget.

Wilde said she wanted to cut $5 million this fiscal year and the same for the next three years.  She didnít see the logic behind waiting to hope someone will bail them out.  She thought as a Budget Committee that they needed to come up with a compromise to gradually make the cuts.

Hijmans recalled that last year they talked about the reserve and buying three years of stability in the organization.  He commented that whether the cliff comes now or in three years, the fact they have three years of stability to work out the problem throughout the country was a prudent move.  He stated that was his position.

Wilde commented that she was not a fan of stability because of the wait and see unpredictability in other levels of government.  She stated not having a plan beyond 2012, or relying on the state or federal government for a solution was not a good one.  She thought they should track things with Cuyler.

Bartlett recalled that up to this point the government has always come through.  He said they could look at various things to preserve the existing mix of services.  He said they could work on attrition.  He commented that if they make big cuts this year, it would come out of public safety.  He said there are unanticipated ramifications for doing things without thinking them through.

Stewart commented that this is his sixth year of being a commissioner and each year they contemplate losing money. He found the government has always come through.  He said experience shows that it is prudent to be aware of the possibilities.  He noted that the current plan is the best plan for reauthorization since he has been a commissioner and the administration wants to find long term solution to funding.   He said they made cuts two years ago and it had serious ramifications.

MOTION: to increase the time for this meeting for ten minutes.

Wilde MOVED, Land SECONDED.

VOTE: 7-1 (Hijmans dissenting).

Wilde commented that sudden chaotic change is hard for people in how they want to change the budget.  She asked how to communicate what the County does.  She stated that whatever they are doing is not always reaching the citizens.

VII.  TAX REVENUE AND FEE REVIEW

Moody reported that the tax piece will come back.  She noted nothing has changed with local taxes available to local governments.  She said they will be watching other counties to see if they are imposing new taxes.  She commented that it is not the environment for new taxes.  She noted the main issue for local options levies are that they are for only five years and they are not a long term solution.  She stated she would bring back more information if anything changes.

Dave Stockdale, Management Analyst, recalled in September the Board had their goal setting meeting and the Board asked for this type of work to be done.   He said this is to bring all fees to one location. He reviewed the fees.  He said their document is 58 pages and is not finished. 

VIII.  ADJOURN

Chair Kaseberg adjourned the meeting at 8:45 p.m.

Melissa Zimmer
Recording Secretary