March 15, 1995
LANE COUNTY BUDGET COMMITTEE
Harris Hall Main Floor - 1:30 p.m.
Chair Kate Jones convened the Budget Committee with commissioners Steve Cornacchia, Ellie Dumdi, Bobby Green, Sr., Jerry Rust and Cindy Weeldreyer present in addition to citizen members Peter Bartel, Marie Bell, Del Phelps and Bud Stewart.
I. CALL TO ORDER AND PUBLIC COMMENT
Jones observed that the objective today is to discuss a final list of reductions and to discuss potential new revenue sources There was consensus that each public comment speaker would be allowed one minute.
Linda Van Orden, 94073 River Road, distributed a copy of her written comments. She summarized that she has paid attention to the whole picture and listened to all testimony. Van Orden remarked that making cuts this year will be very detrimental. She indicated that there is not room for one program to be put up against another.
Ann Woeste, 84487 Murdock Rd., indicated that she was speaking on behalf of the Spencer Butte Neighborhood Assn. She expressed concern about the lack of sheriff's patrol in their area and throughout the county. Woeste stressed that the group would support a tax levy and work for it. She asked for an increase in the sheriff's budget (Woeste's written comments are on file).
Diane Duke and Sally Sheklow, ________. Sheklow spoke about the potential loss of tax revenue. She remarked that they represent a group called Choice, a citizens' health group that has been paying attention to the issue of Sacred Heart and the mergers with local physicians' groups. Sheklow remarked that there is a potential loss of revenue if the physicians and the clinic vote to integrate. Duke indicated the possible loss of $219,000. She asked the Committee to connect with the assessor.
Kevin Woodworth, 6780 D Court, Springfield, indicated that he is a sheriff's deputy and vice-president of the Peace Officers' Assn. He urged the committee to look at a permanent solution to Lane County's financial woes. Woodworth offered support for a long term solution.
Casey Woodard, South Lane Investments, Cottage Grove, spoke on behalf of Nancy Connor, Tom Jordan and Allen Lonstron, who had all signed up to speak with regard to CVALCO, but were waiving their time to allow Woodard four minutes. Woodard stressed that CVALCO has had lasting impact on development in Cottage Grove. He remarked that many hotels are large enough to survive without CVALCO's assistance, but that smaller, "mom 'n pops" will suffer. Woodard remarked that CVALCO markets the rivers, museums and arts. He noted that the industry has been willing to tax itself. Woodard asked the Committee to recognize the success of CVALCO. Cornacchia remarked that Woodard's testimony has focused on tourism marketing. He asked Woodard if he would agree that 2% of the room tax is dedicated to tourism marketing and the other 6% is used for other tourism related projects. He asked if it was Woodard's testimony that nothing on the room tax should be touched or whether the emphasis was on CVALCO. Woodard responded that the emphasis is on CVALCO as the service is vital to all of Lane County and is the top priority. Responding to Cornacchia, Woodard also noted that what is being done at the Fairgrounds is also vital to the area and is the second priority after CVALCO. Cornacchia remarked that he is going to be asking for room tax money out of the other pots.
Del Hackett, 24946 Tree Lane, Elmira, indicated that he is a rural citizen and a lieutenant for the Sheriff's Office. He remarked that the average rural citizen feels abandoned in the area of law enforcement. Hackett stated that the current staffing of patrol officers is unsafe for citizens and officers. He noted that the recent survey shows that crime and gangs are the number one concern, followed by adding deputies and juvenile detention space. Cornacchia asked if Hackett attributes the abandonment of the rural areas to budgetary choices or to revenue situations in the county. Hackett responded that both are issues, but that it is necessary to shore up the front lines. He asked that the Board consider revenue enhancements. Responding to Cornacchia, Hackett indicated that he thinks the Board has to balance the budget and hold the Sheriff's Office harmless.
Michael Baker, 2188 N. Danebo, spoke about veterans. He remarked that for the first 18 years that he was out of service he was a total wreck. Baker stated that five years ago he saw a worker at the county veterans' office and began a VA claim. He stressed that the services they render are very important and that it will be devastating to close the office.
Bill Powell, 3955 East 17th Avenue, Glenwood, stressed that when elected officials take office, their first obligation becomes law enforcement. He urged the Board never to hold a public meeting at 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon. Powell also remarked that people can't hear what is being said in this room.
Renee Pace: 2727 Gateway, indicated that she is with the Lane County Veterans' Service Office and is here to answer questions about her packet that was distributed last night. She distributed a letter from the Eugene American Legion. Responding to Dumdi, Pace indicated that there is a small central office in Roseburg, staffed with one person.
Mike Robinson, 2350 N. Terry, #17, stated that he works at the Lane County Veterans' Service Office as a service representative and is a qualified mental health professional. He stressed that the services are vital and the office has already made sacrifices. Robinson observed that a lot of veterans are mentally and physically disabled and that widows are financially disabled. He indicated that people will have to go to Salem if the services are not provided here.
George Turnbull, 796 Kelly Blvd., Springfield, noted that veterans have lived for 40 years with problems developed during World War II. He stressed that he knows how other veterans should be treated.
Susanne Boling, 662 West 6th, indicated that she is co-chair of the Lane County Chapter of Children First for Oregon and is speaking in support of Lane County's Youth Services Department. She noted that the 5 and 10% cut levels are looking at cuts in beds at the detention center and that the 15% reduction results in the loss of probation officers. Boling stressed that none of this is acceptable.
Marian Blankenship, 490 West 4th, Eugene, spoke regarding the importance of prevention as a vital component to safety and liveability in the community. She remarked that the proposed cuts to Public Health would devastate specific populations of the community. Blankenship indicated that Children First strongly supports seeking additional revenue. She stressed that Public Health and prevention programs must be adequately represented in any levy.
Patrick Burke, 25224 Berry Lane, Veneta, distributed copies of information from the superintendent of the Fern Ridge School District. He noted that page 2 shows facts on how much money the school district has saved as a result of Forest Work Camp labor from Alma. Burke indicated that the total savings for 92-93 equaled $47,943.01. He indicated that half of this work could not have been done otherwise. Burke observed that voters in the area were told that if they voted yes on the last levy, that funds would be used to run the Work Camp and the work release center.
Darrel Spiesschaert, P.O. Box 157, Veneta, indicated that he is the District Forester for the Department of Forestry. He described how they interface with the forest inmate camp through fire protection and state lands' management. Spiesschaert explained that they have trained inmates and used them on up to three fires at a time when all other resources were unavailable. He stressed that they provide a critical resource. Spiesschaert observed that there are plans to do 250 acres of work which will involve six weeks of inmate work crew time this summer.
Max Schumacher, 1735 Tabor Street, stressed that the Board has to prioritize what cuts are made. He observed that people have stated that public safety is their prime objective. Schumacher urged the Board to try to fund the public safety budget.
Paul Gilbertson, 1120 Fairview Drive, Space 62, Springfield, indicated that he is presently on the rehab commission for the American Legion for the state of Oregon. He remarked that the service officers say that cutbacks at the Veterans' Service Office would cause numerous problems with regard to completing forms for filing/restoring claims. He noted that the forms are complex. Gilbertston noted that spending $50,000 will bring $23 million back into the community.
John Peterson, 965 Darlene Avenue, Springfield, stated that Post 40 gets calls all the time from veterans needing help. He stressed that the financial help will be appreciated.
Larry Bagby, 1006 Darlene, Springfield, stated that he is a life member of the Disabled American Veterans and is a service-connected disabled veteran. He stated that he finds any contemplation of diminution of veterans benefits appalling. Bagby emphasized that veterans have made their sacrifices on behalf of everyone present.
Wayne Hunter, 1355 Spring Ct., Junction City, stated that he is a member of the VFW and Commander of the Lane County Veterans' Council. He emphasized that the service office provides vital services. Hunter expressed concern for those who are less fortunate and for those who will come after. He observed the health problems with Desert Storm and the new crop of veterans who will be coming forward.
David Peterson, 490 West 4th, commented that money taken from Public Health will affect the families and children in Lane County who need it the most. He observed that children cannot advocate for themselves. Peterson urged the Committee to use vision and foresight.
Mary Ellen Fisher, 1900 West Seventh, spoke for the Providers' Forum, an organization of representatives from Lane County's social service agencies. She stressed the need for a balanced approach to budget cuts between departments, keeping intact the service system for Health and Human Services. Fisher remarked that Public Health should not take a disproportionate cut. She indicated that the Providers' Forum supports looking at other revenue sources.
Bell expressed appreciation to everyone who was caring enough to come to testify. She noted that there are groups who need advocacy who don't show up, particularly indigent women and their children. Bell expressed concern about potential cuts to clinics in Cottage Grove and Oakridge. She thanked speakers for expressing their opinions.
This meeting recessed at 2:15 p.m. to reconvene in the Commissioners' Conference Room at 2:25 p.m.
II. DEVELOPMENT OF A LIST OF REDUCTION PACKAGES FOR FY 95-96 PROPOSED BUDGET
Bill Van Vactor, County Administrator, observed that budget staff has information on the wall which indicates a starting point for the list of potential reductions beginning with those that seem least onerous for the organization. He noted that what has been identified so far is the $50,000 payment to the Intergovernmental Human Services Fund, the 10% reduction for County Administration and the 5% reduction for Human Resources and Management Services, for a total of $397,000 in reductions. Van Vactor added that revenue sources identified include the potential of $421,000 from the Transient Room Tax which is unallocated and the potential of $100,000 from the Car Rental Tax increase/or exemption reduction. He summarized that this totals approximately $900,000 towards the goal.
Bartel began by indicating that a decision on fee increases in Land Management will affect his decisions on cuts. He strongly urged that the fee increase be implemented. Responding to Stewart, Teresa Wilson, County Counsel, indicated that the capital projects portion of the Transient Room Tax ordinance specifically allows the Board to annually make decisions on a one-time basis to use that money for other purposes that they believe has some general relationship to the purposes of the transient room tax. Responding to Green, Garnick reported that the unencumbered portion (which is $421,000 this year) will be lower next year (approximately $300,000).
Cornacchia indicated that he was impressed by the budget presentations by County employees. He disagreed with (Public Comment speaker) Hackett regarding the Board's ability to balance the budget and hold the Sheriff's Office harmless. Cornacchia stated that he could not support one budget being left completely untouched while other portions of law enforcement/public safety, i.e. the District Attorney, Youth Services and parts of Health and Human Services, would have to be cut. Cornacchia presented a base list (which was later used by other members to add/ subtract from) of revenues/reductions. He indicated he would reduce the deficit by using $400,000 of the unencumbered room tax dollars, taking $100,000 from the rural special projects fund, taking $300,000 from the car rental tax and parks, eliminating the County's efforts in animal regulation and using $100,000 of reserves. Cornacchia indicated that would leave $1,400,000 worth of cuts to make. He continued that he would hold the veterans program, document resource center, the prenatal program, Youth Services and the District Attorney harmless. Cornacchia stated that he would reduce Health and Human Services by $300,000 (everything in the reduction package except the prenatal clinic and veterans). He supported Rockstroh's suggestion to take the veterans' payment out of Health and Human Services. Cornacchia expressed his support for the increase in Land Management fees. He indicated that he would reduce County Administration by $125,000 (all of the reduction package except the document resource center) and reduce County Counsel by $53,000. Cornacchia stated that this would reduce the remaining balance to below $900,000 and that this amount would be attributed to the Sheriff, which is an amount below any reduction package requested of the Sheriff. He expressed his support of putting a rural patrol initiative on the ballot. Cornacchia remarked that he would restore Elections to last year's level and open Deeds and Records for five days. He stated that he would support shutting down the Central Lane Justice Court. Cornacchia stressed that he would expect CVALCO, the veterans and the District Attorney to support a one-year levy which would restore all cuts which are designated. Finally, he committed to immediately beginning work on a comprehensive law enforcement levy for FY96-97 to include all previous cuts, current levies and public safety/law enforcement enhancements. Cornacchia remarked that, in the event there is a decision to shut down part of the jail, the use of road funds, approximately $500,000, should be considered to put four more road crews on county roads with two deputies per crew.
Cornacchia discussed his support of the O & C Act Revestment which would revert the O & C lands from federal ownership to the state.
Rust agreed that Deeds and Records and Elections needs to be restored. He expressed support for the enhancements for Youth Services and the District Attorney. Rust disagreed with doing away with animal control, the HIV program and disturbing the parks scenario. Rust agreed to the $400,000 from room tax, if the County does not go out for a levy. He indicated the need to take care of the highest risks in the community first. Rust agreed that most of the discretionary general fund dollars are in the Public Safety budget.
Rust indicated that he had had some research done on Van Vactor's suggestion regarding temporary closure of the Forest Work Camp. He noted that the cost per day for clients at the Work Camp is much higher than at the jail or the Community Corrections Center. Noting that the people that are in the Work Camp are the least risk offenders, he expressed support for mothballing the Work Camp for a savings next fiscal year of approximately $1.7 million. Rust stated that Legal Counsel believes it is legal to mothball the Work Camp and use that money for other purposes that are in the levy. (Teresa Wilson, County Counsel, later stated that while the idea is not without political risk, it is legally permissible if the funds are used for rural patrol and corrections programs.) Rust stated that the money could be used for the enhancements discussed above and then hold the balance of the Sheriff's department generally harmless. Cornacchia expressed concern about losing credibility with the voters if the Work Camp is shut down. Cornacchia later noted the costs to mothball the camp, the need for security when it did close, and the cost of terminating its employees. Bell later stated that if the trade-off for mothballing the Work Camp were to be rural patrol, that credibility with the voters could probably be maintained.
Responding to Green, Dumdi remarked that the reason the Work Camp is not running at full capacity is partially the fault of the Commissioners as they had stipulated the classification of offenders that could go out there out of concern for area residents. Cornacchia indicated that the Board had asked the Sheriff to bring forward a plan for resolution of the situation regarding filling the Work Camp, but that has not happened.
Phelps observed that Land Management should become self-sufficient immediately. He agreed regarding holding the veterans harmless. Phelps expressed support of a "short term band-aid" until a long term approach can be developed, hopefully for next year. He proposed an "a" and "b" levy, with the "a" levy keeping the status quo for all departments (using some of the unencumbered room tax funds to diminish the amount needed) and the "b" levy to be the status quo plus enhancements to be brought forward by each department which would keep their department running adequately. Phelps indicated that either choice would keep a balanced system. He stated that if no levy passes, then he would support a 5% reduction across the board.
Dumdi concurred with eliminating Animal Regulation and with the immediate Land Management fee increase.
Green expressed support of: using the $421,000 unencumbered in the room tax fund, garnering $100,000 from the car rental tax, not using reserves, using $100,000 from special projects money, restoring Elections, restoring Deeds and Records, increasing Land Management fees, holding Youth Services harmless and holding the District Attorney harmless. He indicated interest in a rural patrol levy. Green encouraged long range planning. With regard to the Forest Work Camp, he stated that he was willing to listen to a discussion on that topic. He agreed with Russell that if there are further cuts in Animal Regulation, then it should be closed. Green suggested that, as part of a long range planning process, the possibility of privatization of Animal Regulation and privatization of the jail should be discussed.
Bartel indicated interest in "replacement players" for deputies at the jail and the Work Camp, suggesting that it would be more cost efficient. He stated that he could not support a levy until all efficiencies are dealt with. Bartel remarked that he did not want to dip into reserves. With regard to use of a portion of the transient room tax, he expressed concern that it would establish a policy that the door is open to the fund and also endanger jobs related to room tax. Bartel agreed on the increase in Land Management fees. Bartel indicated he did not have a problem with the Work Camp proposal.
This meeting recessed at 4:00 p.m. to reconvene at 4:30 p.m. During this recess, staff took the opportunity to begin a visual chart on the board which included various proposals by members of the Budget Committee.
Bell indicated that she was in general agreement with Cornacchia's list, with some exceptions. She remarked that she did not want to use rural special projects money. Bell agreed with regard to the closing of the Forest Work Camp.
Stewart stated his general agreement with Cornacchia. He asked that $50,000 be left in the transient room tax fund for "seed money" for business development. Stewart indicated that he did not like the idea of closing the Work Camp.
Rust asked that closure of Animal Regulation be taken off the list as it is "low gain/high risk," expressing concern about the contracts with the City of Eugene. He noted that it deals with public safety and communicable disease control. Rust also spoke in support of HIV funding, noting the need for education around this deadly communicable disease. He expressed a problem with using money from the rural special projects fund. Rust suggested $200,000 from car rental tax funds.
Bell clarified that the $300,000 in cuts from Health and Human Services would include $39,000 from the Drug and Alcohol program, $89,000 Springfield Clinic, $131,000 HIV and $41,687 Teen Pregnancy/Family Planning.
Weeldreyer indicated that she was willing to look at the $420,000 from room tax, $100,000 car rental tax, $120,000 from closure of Animal Regulation, and Bell's $300,000 Health and Human Services' list. With regard to Land Management fee increases, Weeldreyer indicated that she would agree with the stipulation that there would be some safeguards. She stated that she was struggling with the Forest Work Camp concept and needed to hear from the Sheriff. Weeldreyer remarked that she was willing to do a one year elimination of tourism special projects for a total of $250,000. Dumdi indicated general concurrence with Weeldreyer.
Stewart was excused from the meeting at 5:00 p.m.
Further discussions continued somewhat informally and changes were made to individual lists (these will be delineated on an attachment to the Minutes). Jones then asked to hear from department heads.
Sheriff Bob McManus indicated that the cost per day to keep someone at the Forest Work Camp was approximately $51 per day, plus $34 to keep the inmate in the work programs involved at the camp, for a total of $85 per day. He emphasized that it would be a real mistake to close the Forest Work Camp as it is one of the most popular programs in Lane County government. McManus remarked that numerous courts in the County use it for sentencing. He expressed concern that these cuts are in Fund 18, not Fund 24 as requested. McManus stated that the rules seem to have changed in midstream. He stressed that he had anticipated formulating cuts with the intention of going out for a levy to restore cuts. McManus added that if the Forest Work Camp proves not to be a good program at the end of three years, then that is the time to scrap it. He indicated he was not interested in creating a credibility issue with the voters. Bartel remarked that the credibility will fall on everyone's shoulders, not just the Sheriff. He remarked on the need for creative solutions such as this one. Bartel stated that this change in mid-process will allow for maintenance of all other areas of public safety. Rust agreed that the Forest Work Camp is the least onerous to the public over the jail and patrol. He expressed concern about continually going out for short-term law enforcement levies. McManus commented that, if there is to be no levy this year, then mothballing the Work Camp is the last onerous, but emphasized that he would not recommend it. He expressed concern about the ramifications of potentially matrixing 900 more people because there is no place to sentence them for that level of offense. McManus also noted the impact on school districts and others who rely on inmate labor as an offset to their budget.
George Russell, Director of Human Resources and Management Services, expressed concern about any decision to eliminate Animal Regulation, noting that Lane County has a code that requires enforcement and there is a state law regarding dealing with animals. He questioned the dollar amount and the offsetting revenue.
Rob Rockstroh, Director of Health and Human Services, remarked that he was pleased with the shift to prevention/early intervention, with the hold harmless for the District Attorney and Youth Services, and with holding the veterans harmless. He noted that the $170,000 cut reflects package #2, #4 and #8.
John Goodson, Public Works Director, offered appreciation for support in the increase in fees, but noted that it still leaves a reduction of approximately $135,000, which will affect long range planning, telephones and counters.
Weeldreyer indicated that she wants to give the voters an opportunity to restore any cuts developed. Phelps agreed. Bartel stated that he strongly opposes a levy until long range planning takes place. Rust remarked that since the Juvenile Justice Center will probably be on the ballot in May and since another viable plan is being developed for County services, he would not support a levy this year. Cornacchia stated that any reductions in Public Safety are unacceptable and he would like to give the voters the opportunity to restore the cuts. Green indicated that if this year's reductions can be managed, he would rather wait for a full-bore tax measure next year. Bell remarked that, if there is to be a levy, then a levy should be done to make the County whole.
Bell was excused from the meeting at 6:20 p.m. (returning at approximately 7:30 p.m.).
Dumdi indicated her support of a levy as layoffs have a negative impact on the overall economy. Weeldreyer noted that a levy attempt allows the County to tell the story of the reductions and allows them to make a choice, and offered support for a County operating levy and the Juvenile Justice Center levy. Jones remarked that there is a block of citizens who are uncomfortable with the "band-aid" approach, indicating she would like to wait until a comprehensive strategic plan is developed. Responding to Green, Wilson stated that, historically, very few general operating levies have passed. Responding to Jones, Wilson indicated that the cost of putting a levy on the ballot was approximately $40,000.
This meeting recessed for a dinner break at 6:30 p.m. to reconvene at 7:30 p.m.
Cornacchia began the discussion by commenting that the Board should not choose which Sheriff's services will be cut. He advocated giving the Sheriff a figure and letting him make the decisions.
McManus noted that he had met with the two rural commissioners during the break (who had asked him "What is best for Lane County?") and advised them that the best choice is the Forest Work Camp, if there is to be no levy. He asked that possession of the camp be retained, so that it may be available for reinstatement when a long range levy is developed. Responding to Cornacchia, McManus expressed concern that a levy asking for replacement of levy dollars already in existence (the Forest Work Camp) would not pass. He stressed that only a pure law enforcement levy, with maybe some Youth Services and District Attorney services included, has a chance of passage. Dumdi asked about moving the excess $600,000 (the difference between the $1.5 million Work Camp closure and the $900,000 in public safety cuts) over to rural patrol. McManus suggested checking the costs of closure of the camp and then if there is any additional, then Public Safety could look at what would best serve Lane County - dollars to the jail or additional patrol officers. Discussions continued, with fine-tuning of individual Budget Committee members' choices being done (see Exhibit "A"). Noting that the District Attorney was happy to be held harmless and Youth Services was already getting a $100,000 add package, the final breakdown allotted a $300,000 add back to the Sheriff's budget. After Bartel expressed concern regarding taking $670,000 from tourism-related activities and using it for general fund, Weeldreyer clarified that there will still be video lottery money for economic development/job creation programs in rural areas.
III. DECISION ON NEW REVENUE
With regard to seeking new levy revenue, the lay members present, Phelps, Bartel, Bell and Jones (Stewart was not present), all expressed a desire to forego a levy for this fiscal year, with the desire of developing a strategy for an all-encompassing measure for the '96-'97 fiscal year. The lay members offered to begin working on next year's budget earlier in the process. The Board expressed their appreciation to the lay members.
There being no further business, this meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.
Sharon Giles, Board Secretary
*NOTE: Attached to these minutes were copies of a computer print-out detailing individual committee members' choices related to the various scenarios. Also attached was a March 24 memorandum summarizing and explaining the actions taken at this meeting.