LANE COUNTY
BUDGET COMMITTEE MEETING
May 6, 2010
5:15 p.m.
Harris Hall Main Floor
APPROVED 5/20/2010

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

I. Committee Business

Approval of Minutes

April 29, 2010 Budget Committee Meeting

MOTION: to approve the minutes of April 29, 2010.

Handy MOVED, Dwyer SECONDED.

VOTE: Unanimous.

Shari Higgins, noted on the balancing options on page 44 (county governance form), it has been requested under Level 2 Commissioner Assistants to be changed from Commissionersí Assistants to Constituent Service Aids.  She indicated that this has been posted on the Internet.

II. Department of Children and Families

Alicia Hays, Children and Families, gave a power point presentation on her department. (Copy in file).  She noted that a community request came through her department for CASA and the Relief Nursery.

Sorenson asked how other counties structure the administration for Commissions on Children and Families.  He recalled it used to be under Health and Human Services but it is now a free standing agency.

Hays noted the goal of the state commission is what Lane County is currently doing.  She said it is best to be a department that is free standing, as she has low overhead.  She added that it is more expensive to move into a larger department.  She hoped they could be kept the way they are.

Kaseberg noted page 100, indicates that the Department of Children and Families received $100,000 in County general fund in 2010 from the BCC to help with reductions in the Oregon Department of Children and Families Budget for 2009/2011.  She asked if that was backfill.

Hays responded that they didnít keep the funding and they ended up cutting staff.  She indicated that it was for the non-profits in the community.

Sorenson asked about the volunteer hours and the leveraging of volunteer energy that goes into the department.

Hays stated that volunteer hours are required statewide for their requirements.  She said they look to the community to solve issues for youth and families.

Fleenor recalled that they requested a subjective accounting of the citizen involvement that would reflect a prioritization of programs.  He asked if they could equate that to a dollar figure for levering so that all programs with volunteers could accrue $15.00 per hour and it would provide a way of comparing this across the board.

Hays said they actually have that information because they compute that for the state and she would provide the information.

Sorenson was interested in getting volunteer information, but because they are requesting it, that doesnít mean it will be given a numeric factor.  He said they heard testimony over the years about importance of maintaining core services.  He added that if a core service is for a Public Safety system that involves professionals, there might not be a large volunteer competent.  He noted there are costs associated with volunteer activity.

III. Public Works

Marsha Miller, Public Works, gave a power point presentation on the overview of her department. (Copy in file).

Stewart asked what the amount was to maintain an amount in the reserve so they could have the proper operational fund.

Tanya Heaton, Public Works, responded that they need 25 to 50 percent of the amount they are spending on capital projects or road presentation.  She said they need it because the timber money comes in February but fuel tax money comes in at different times.  She said they need a large sum of money during the months of July, August and September and they have to have the cash because it is a budget violation if they draw on the general fund.  She said they have to take out a loan and then pay interest.  She noted it is the seasonal cash flow they keep in the budget to pay the construction contracts as they come in.

Handy asked about middle management taking vehicles home and overtime and how they could get them measured.

Miller recalled in the past there were more employees taking vehicles home, but now there are only a few. She said the vehicles are monitored. She added that middle management doesnít get overtime.

Handy wanted to know the opportunities for reorganization and merging departments.

Fleenor noted on page 209, line 18 under Fleet Services, he asked what the $6 million was and if they could save money.

Heaton responded that is the amount other Public Works divisions pay fleet services for the operation and maintenance and replacement of fleet equipment.

IV. Lane Events Center

Rick Reno, Lane Events Center, reported the way they prepared their budget they considered the current economic indicators and overall financial climate they face today.  He said their budget represents a cautions yet optimistic financial projection while committed to maximizing revenues and maintaining the best service possible. He reported the transient room tax budgeted is 35 percent less than two years ago and 20 percent less than last year.  He noted the actual transient room tax this year will be 40 percent less than what they budgeted for this year.  He indicated the budget includes the first full year of the assessment of their becoming a department of Lane County.  He noted that now the employees have become unionized, the expenses will increase further.  He commented that flexibility in serving their clients may be affected.   He stated that if they loose that flexibility, they are dead in the water because they have a service orientated operation.  He discussed that if the Lane Events Center retains its historical methodology of operating and the TRT does not rebound for the next few years, there is realistic probability the revenue will be insufficient to cover expenses or the needed capital improvements.  He said if that happens, there needs to be serious discussion about the amount of services that could be realistically maintained to the users of their facilities.  He noted the considerations include reducing services and facility operations as they may relate to specific events, possible cessation of operations in specific facilities or a complete cessation of the Lane Events Center and the Lane County Fair.

Reno reported they are realistically aware of the challenges they have inherited.  He believed as they manage through the existing future economic climate and the challenges, that there are other avenues are worth exploring.  He said they are a department that is unique in that they can create their own revenue from scratch if they are given the tools to do that. He added that if a proactive approach is permitted by the Board, then he thought there was the potential to improve the financial condition of the Lane Events Center and the Lane County Fair, as they could maintain as many services as possible to the community.

Reno stated that they have seen their total revenue substantially decrease in the last two to three years.  He said staff has aggressively addressed the shortfall and revenue by attacking the expense side of their ledger.  He stated that they have achieved their fiduciary responsibility in 15 months of management in the Lane Events Center and the Lane County Fair.  He commented that staff at the Lane Events Center has been a good steward of the Event Center and Lane County Fair finances, but they still have followed the edict from County officials to stand on their own.  He said they have accomplished the task of meeting their operational expenses without requesting any additional operating funds from the Lane County general fund.  He said they have been able to stay within their operating means even though the revenue from TRT is down $500,000 in the current economy. He indicated they had to deal with a $1million shortfall in revenue but managed the operating expenses in a way where they didnít have to ask the Board to cover their expenses.

Sorenson asked if the Fair was still a net revenue producer.

Reno responded that the 2008/2009 net revenue for the fair was $96,000.  He recalled that last year (with no increase in attendance or revenue) they came in with a net of $250,000.  He said they looked at expenses by putting everything out for competitive bid and that worked.  He noted that they are going to take the same approach this year.  He indicated that they will do more cost cutting.  He said they want to rebrand and improve the image of the Fair and he thought they did last year.  He announced they will have more free entertainment this year.  He commented that he thinks he turned the fair around.

Sorenson asked how to achieve the same or better results with the Fair.

Reno said they have to look at increasing revenue at the same time they look at reducing expenses.  He said they have moved into the Countyís system.  He noted they are in an enterprise fund and he is trying to have all of their buildings as an enterprise fund profit and loss center so they can look at each facility to see which ones are creating the most money.  He reported the convention center is the building that is used the most and creates the most revenue producing events with the exception of the Lane County Fair..  He noted that they made two major changes.  He said they have gone into a seasonal operation for the ice center and it reflects a $160,000 loss this year.

Handy said he and Dwyer are on the Facilities Committee. He said they need discussion about the future footprint of the Fairgrounds and reorganization of County government.

Hijmans asked Reno what was holding him back from success that he had been familiar with.

Reno said one of the things that make progress slower is that their decisions are not based on business decisions; they are based on other pressures and other interests that come into play.  He said when they are trying to create revenue; they have to spend money to make money.  He commented that a challenge is to take risk and if they lose money, it is too hot a topic for the Board.  He said they brought in a sales person and they have already generated 60,000 to 85,000 and that doesnít take into consideration catering or concessions.  He thought it could be as much as $120,000 before the fiscal year is out.  He commented that it will take out of the box flexibility in order for them to operate more as an entrepreneur in attempting to generate revenue. 

Dwyer said it is difficult to make political discussions.  He asked if it was the role of government to subsidize private sector profits and absorb the losses. He said they will have to make tough decisions outside of the political realm.  He commented that to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars to serve 250 people (because they like to do something) is not a cost effective way to run the government when they have other important needs like WIC, Children and Families and Meals on Wheels.  

Fleenor stated that the Lane Events Center and Fairgrounds has a history of deliberate benign neglect with bad business making models.  He noted this is what Reno has inherited.  He believed Reno will be able to turn this around but it will take money and time and the recovery of the economy and TRT. 

Reno said he is part of a team and if it wasnít for the team members with the restrictions they have, he wouldnít have been able to achieve the goals.

V. District Attorney

Alex Gardner, District Attorney, gave a presentation.(Copy in file)

Wilde asked what strategies they wanted that werenít feasible.

Gardner said they try the best practices model with supervision staff locally, treatment capacity and enough jail capacity to engage in correction without imprisoning people indefinitely.  He said they have no resources at adequate levels to manage crime property offenders.  He said their choice is to either let the offenders reoffend in the community (with million dollars of property crimes with hundreds of victims) or excise them and send them to the state where it costs them more tax dollars.  He thought some offenders could have been managed at a much lower cost if they had the other resources.

Handy asked what the impacts would be if the cities of Springfield and Eugene pulled their PSCC money.

Stewart noted that with the PSCC, the cities of Eugene and Springfield are both contributing $18,000 each.  He thought if a portion of that money disappears; the PSCC will not be able to turn out reports like the annual report card.   He said they will have to cease some of the committee group that is addressing what the future looks like.  He said what would be left would be the state determining the allocation of CCC dollars.  He said if they cease the PSCC it would put at risk the Community Corrections dollars.  He said they need the PSCC for the funds to be granted.

VI. Assessment and Taxation

Anette Spickard, Assessor, distributed information for her department. (Copy in file).

Spickard reported that the proposed budget for next year is a status quo budget, as that was the direction.  She added the proposed budget is more than $7 million for next year.  She commented that they were able to come up for a budget next year that has an increase of just over three percent.  She said they were able to cut things in their Materials and Services budgets and to absorb employee costs increases to stay around three percent growth.  She said 73 percent of her budget is personnel costs.  She added that 90 percent of staff is in the AFSCME labor union and six are non-classified employees including herself.  She thought the state would approve their budget.

Spickard reviewed the International Association of Assessing Officers National Standards. She noted their performance measurements for cost of administration should cost 1.5 percent of total taxes billed and at Lane County they are 1.7 percent billed.  She said it is in line with national standards.  She said they have 180,000 property tax accounts and have more contact with constituents than any other department of the County on a regular basis.  She said it costs $38 per account to map, appraise, bill and turn the money over to the districts to make sure local governments are receiving their funding.  She said they collect $400 million dollars for 82 taxing districts including $35 million for Lane County.  She said $1 dollar in an investment returns $57 in tax revenue.  She said they have one of the highest collection rates in the state and they are efficient and effective at what they do.  She added that they have been in compliance with staff levels for several years and they no longer have a backlog of work to do.  She said they have new legislation they are implementing this year that came out of  the special session with no funding to implement it.  She noted they have two tax laws to get implemented into their software to make sure they make the changes correctly for the accounts that qualify.

Spickard said they couldnít do the amount of work they do without their investment in technology.  She said they are a heavy user of technology and they pay to have two dedicated staff for their department in addition to other basic IS services. She commented that technology has helped them to streamline internally and take advantage of working differently with GIS data.  She said it is more efficient and accurate.  She noted that they are working on mapping and in the past they have always had the responsibility of maintaining the maps of the County and all the tax lots.  She said they have been converting to the GIS system.  She indicated that they have been partnering with Public Works and LCOG in doing this work.  She noted in July they will be cutting to one map maintained by their department.  She said they will be eliminating redundancies between government agencies.  She commented that they are doing as much as they can online for the taxpayer.  She said they are one of the top sites visited on Lane Countyís website and it cuts down in customerís visits to downtown.  She was proud of the work her staff does.

Land asked when they take over the map work if they are getting financial support from the cities.

Spickard said they are part of a regional partnership.  She said they all contribute their regular data and efforts to the group as a whole and combine them together.  She said in exchange they get RLID data and donít have to pay subscription fees.  She said they trade access to data to eliminate the running around an individual has to do around agencies.  She thought it was the assessorís function to keep the maps.

Kaseberg  read a question asking if there was anything that could be done to pick up the extra three percent with the property taxes.

Spickard said they used to have collection agents who were aggressive to collect the money.  She said they have not had that in their staffing plan. She said the cost for the County to add the position couldnít fully cover the cost of the position. 

VII. Budget Committee Questions and Discussion

Kaseberg indicated one commissioner sent out a list of questions that went out in an e-mail.  She said Budget staff has been responding to questions.  She noted some of the information was requested for a four day work week.

Moody said the e-mail was about the Clackamas County program and how Portland State made studies.

Kaseberg asked for more health care options.

Spartz indicated they have had some preliminary discussions with Wells Fargo because they run health savings account options. He said they were going to look to those to use them as a test and whether they could implement it across the County.

Kaseberg asked for more indirect charges for administration.

Moody sent out the summary of the indirect cost plan.

Kaseberg asked if travel or attending training conferences could be limited.

Moody responded that when they had departments prepare their budgets this year they sent details about the type of training in their line items and if it was required by license or law.  She said they will bring that back to the Budget Committee.

Kaseberg asked what would it take to centralize all personnel functions and if it would result in any savings.

Spartz said that the Sheriff is a co-employer and they could not centralize all HR functions within the County unless the Sheriff asked to do that.

Kaseberg asked about restructuring of departments for more management savings.

Hijmans didnít want a lengthy study or a report.  He thought personnel could be centralized.  He wanted it conceptualized.

Kaseberg asked what happens if state revenues come in lower than projected and they have to make cuts by the end of this calendar year.

Moody said she will send out that information to departments to ask if they hear of anything.

Stewart said the intent was to get more information.  He wanted to know if there were projections and if it would affect their budget.  He said with the questions he posed, he wanted to maintain the current service level.  Hew anted to see where they could reduce some expenses that would not change the service level or employees but helps save money. .He said anything they spend today, doubles the cut in the following years.  He thought if they cut the auditor and travel reductions, those could start to add up.

Land asked if there was any research about a four day work week besides Clackamas County.  She thought before they changed things, to get an estimate from HR on what kind of dollars they were looking at.

Stewart said if they reviewed the information and he thought it was a worthwhile venture, he hoped to make the recommendation to the Board to put together a process to evaluate whether it is feasible for a four day work week.  He thought a committee could be put together to make a recommendation to the Board and he thought it could be phased in if it had merit.

Kaseberg commented that with the water master request and other additions, small things could add up.

Wilde asked about the impact of the management analyst that had come into the Sheriffís Department.

Captain Tom Turner responded that the add back was able to help with statistical information and grant management.  He noted the smaller grants have taken the most work.  He reported that Janice Gotchall took over the position and did a great job.  He commented that it has been a great addition for them.

Land asked what the difference was between 09/10 and 10/11 for training.

Turner said the training budget was supplemented by grants and the Board. He said they got additional monies that were spent on training. 

Land recalled that last year there was $6 million dollars in training and this year only $316,000 was designated.  She thought that was is significant.

Moody said she will have to go back to last yearís document.  She said she would obtain the answer.

VIII. Adjourn.

Chair Kaseberg adjourned the meeting at 7:50 p.m.

Melissa Zimmer
Recording Secretary