LANE COUNTY

BUDGET COMMITTEE

April 29, 2004

5:15 p.m.

Commissioners' Conference Room

APPROVED 5/13/04

 

Chair David Crowell presided with Budget Committee members Scott Bartlett, Bill Dwyer, Bobby Green, Sr., Don Hampton, Mary Ann Holser, Francisca Johnson, Kathy Keable, Anna Morrison, and Peter Sorenson present. County Administrator Bill Van Vactor and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present.

 

I. CALL TO ORDER

 

Chair David Crowell called the meeting to order.

 

II. COMMITTEE BUSINESS

 

Approval of Lane County Budget Committee minutes: April 22, 2004, 5:15 p.m.

 

MOTION:  to approve the minutes of April 22, 2004, 5:15 p.m.

 

Green MOVED, Johnson SECONDED.

 

VOTE: 7-0 (Bartlett, Dwyer and Holser out of room).

 

Crowell indicated that on May 18th the Budget Committee will resume public comment.  He recalled the budget was based on budget direction from the Board of Commissioners to the department heads that the County will try for two years of financial stability.  He stated to do that it takes a nine percent across-the-board cut.  He said they have flexibility with approving the budget. He didn’t think the cuts had to be made across-the-board or according to the Strategic Plan.  He thought it could be anything they wanted within the fiscal law and limitations they have.

 

Green asked if they should start to identify priorities.  He thought the nine percent reduction might be a good place to start, but he was interested in identifying priorities.

 

Morrison stated she did not support nine percent across-the-board cuts.  She was concerned about the direction they were going and the priorities the committee was setting.

 

Sorenson said he did not suggest that there be a nine percent across-the-board reduction.  He said after they hear from the departments on the proposed budget, they could get into a discussion about what to do.  He asked how much money they had to use from the contingency or reserve.

 

David Garnick, Senior Management Analyst, responded they complied with the Leadership Team’s direction to provide approximately $500,000 to reallocate to whatever service they chose.  He said that is built into the budget.

 

Morrison stated that in the exercise in December, she indicated what she wanted cut to balance the budget.

 

Green commented that they don’t know what the priorities are.  He commented that until he has a sense of the direction of where they want to be, if they adopt where they are now, they would be okay for next year, but then the following year they would have a deficit.  He wanted to examine things for the long-term.

 

Dwyer asked what the impact would be on the service system and what impact is on the community as a result of not providing the service.

 

III. SHERIFF’S OFFICE BUDGET

 

Jan Clements, Sheriff, gave a presentation on the Sheriff’s Office budget. (Copy in file).

 

Sorenson asked if Lane County was going to opt out of the Community Corrections program, not taking the state money.

 

Clements commented that that item will be before the Board next week.  He was not recommending that they give notice of intent to opt out.  He wanted to convey in the most sincere and strongest terms the need for the state to live up to its obligations related to SB 1145.  He said they are trying to convey that message with other counties.  He noted the Board could act independently of their recommendation.  He said at that time they would want a serious financial analysis of what that would do to Lane County as they have used that money for correctional operations, treatment and Parole and Probation.  He didn’t want to start planning for opting out until the Board reviews the operational and fiscal consequences.  He added it would degrade the ability of their correctional system to effectively deal with local offenders.

 

Green asked what the dollar amount was that he [the Sheriff] had to reduce in his department to meet the nine percent for this year.  He also wanted to know about the reductions from last year.

 

Clements responded the nine percent target compelled them to prepare a budget after they reviewed everything line item by line item for both revenue and expenses.  He noted the reduction is $2.35 million.  He added in the midst of the budget preparation, they evaluated where they were in grant and aid dollars and post-Measure 30’s failure.  He stated they spent at a lower level because they thought it was going to fail.  He said as they looked at the contingency money, the impact was not as bad as they thought and took that money (close to $1 million).  He noted though it would have normally been spent over two years, they only have one year to spend it.  He said it was recommended by the Supervisory Authority Team, the Public Safety Coordinating Council and the County Administrator to save a 48-bed closure.  He added that was on top of the previous cuts they sustained, including a resident deputy in Florence, a property crimes detective, a volunteer coordinator, as well as 119 beds the previous year.

 

Dwyer noted the Sheriff’s total budget is $43 million.  He said their direction was related to the general fund.  He said the $1 million would come out of the general fund.  He asked if they took the $1 million out of his total budget, what the budget would be.

 

Garnick indicated it would be about $42.1 million, down to $41.6 million in the general fund.

 

Dwyer asked about the demonstrated number of releases.

 

Clements responded when the system starts dwindling, there are not expectations and they are releasing people they wouldn’t normally release.  He said there is an artificial decline in the number of people and a demonstrated need to include the matrix release.  He indicated the people they had in custody that filled their beds on Saturday, April 24, included sentenced misdemeanors of 105, pre-trial misdemeanors of 45, sentenced felons of 262, pre-trial felons of 168, one pre-sentenced felony, 10 federal inmates, and Immigration Naturalization Service of two people, one agency hold and two material witnesses.  He said it demonstrates that unless they get down according to the federal cap twice a day, they have no beds available to book anyone in.  He said they have to matrix people out because they are constantly full.

 

With regard to the defender and offender management center, Clements explained this was critical in the midst of downsizing.  He said it is a cooperative venture between the state courts custody referee, Parole and Probation and the Sheriff’s Office.  He said they are establishing a new best practice.  He said the objectives of this center will reduce recidivism, uniformity and release decisions, and reduce the risk to the citizens.

 

With regard to patrolling, Clements commented they are understaffed all hours of the day.  He indicated they tailor the staffing to the peak call loads.  He said when talking about a reduction from a 24-hour model, if they lose a sergeant and four deputies, at slow times there will be no deputies on the road and the Oregon State Police no longer have staff for 24 hours.  He said there will be no law enforcement in the field during certain hours of the night.  He indicated that response time would increase for all calls and during the hours in the middle of the night when there is no one on duty, response time for life threatening emergencies will increase by a minimum of 30 minutes.  He said there will be no one on duty for the entire county during those hours.  He stated they could have a serious  situation where there will be no one on duty to answer the call.

 

Clements said in the general fund (because of co-mingling sources of revenue to fund some of their activities), the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act is the single most important funding source for the Forest Work Camp and the crews, for search and rescue on federal land and the forest land deputies that provide additional support to provide a safety net for the citizens of Lane County.

 

Clements commented the degradation of the system will contribute to crime and fear of crime.  He said the fear of crime is as much victimization as crime itself.  He said because of the presence of the drug trade and the lawlessness, including property crimes, assaults and identify theft, the community feels less safe.  He said they have a structural funding problem.  He added the system will also damage regional economic development efforts if they don’t have the essential public safety services in place.  He stated if they don’t check the incidences of the drug trade in Lane County, they will be paying consequences that are increasing and will have a difficult time recovering.  He said these people will be released back into the community.

 

Bartlett asked what the cost would be for a sergeant and four deputies. 

 

Clements responded when he staffs for seven days a week, the cost is $464,000.  He said it would enable them to retain 24-hour patrol.

 

Clements commented that Lane County has identified through its Strategic Plan that public safety is the number one priority.  He added those services are in the criminal justice system to include prosecution, Youth Services and the Sheriff’s Office.

 

Van Vactor complimented the Sheriff on his budget.  He said they did a phenomenal job of going through every revenue and expense.  He indicated that the effect was to minimize the reductions.

 

IV. DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE BUDGET

 

Kent Mortimore, Chief Deputy District Attorney, introduced Paul Graebner, Karl Matthews, Dave Schwartz, Debbie Vogt, who gave presentations about the District Attorney’s office.

 

Frank Ratti, Medical Examiner, discussed his job.  He asked the Budget Committee to preserve assistance to law enforcement and restore funds that would have cut a second investigator.

 

Doug Harcleroad, District Attorney noted that because of a $93,000 savings, they put the investigator position back in.  He indicated it would be a technical adjustment

 

Jack Billings, Judge, explained how important it was for the District Attorney and public defender to work together to make public safety in the courts work.  He commented that the impact on public safety is greater than the nine percent across-the-board cuts.  He added there will be a lasting impact in the community and they will  continue to be understaffed.  He said the message in the community can’t be that petty crimes won’t be prosecuted.  He said they need to protect domestic violence victims.  He added if fewer cases are filed with the public defender they will have to shrink the system and everyone will pay.

 

Steve Doell, Crime Victims United, urged the Budget Committee to restore funding to the District Attorney because cuts present a clear and present danger to the citizens of Lane County.

 

Hardy Myers, Attorney General, indicated when the state budget crisis began in 2001, it forced a renewed understanding of how the criminal justice system operates.  He said the District Attorney is the most important because it is the center and source of legal advice and counseling to investigators with respect to the conduct of their work to ensure compliance with the law.

 

Myers explained when they consider reductions to the funding of the District Attorney offices, they are implicating not only its ability to prosecute crime and hold offenders accountable, they are implicating crime victim services and other related functions and services of investigators of crime.   

 

Myers thought that a nine percent across-the-board cut was a mistake.  He urged the Board to adopt the view that the single most important commitment of state or local funding is the rule of law for order and safety.  

 

Harcleroad said he sees the District Attorneys office as a partnership with Lane County.  He noted if the Budget Committee would take $300,000 on top of the $1 million from the District Attorneys office there would be no children at Pathways as they wouldn’t be able to file the cases.  He thought there could be other revenue the committee should consider.  He thought the committee should consider elimination of entire services before considering incremental cuts.  He indicated that the $1 million proposed cut in the District Attorney’s office fits into that.  He commented they have been active in bringing in revenue in Lane County.   

 

Harcleroad commented they get 8,000 criminal cases with 25 lawyers and support staff to manage. He said they are performing more dispositions and plea bargains.  He said a work case study indicated they need four lawyers working full time on felony assaults.  He said they need 7.2 attorneys to do the other violent felonies.  He said with the cuts they would not be able to handle 3,650 cases with the FTE they have to cut.  He said they are slated to lose 14.9 or 30.4 percent of the FTE reduction.  

 

Harcleroad recommended alternatives.  He thought the Budget Committee could tentatively approve each budget as they come along.  He commented that taking the nine percent across-the-board method was the wrong way of making cuts.  He said they could find pockets of money to use.  He said it was critical to add back the 48 beds in the jail.  He noted that drug evaluation treatment and housing had not been allocated to any program in the amount of $300,000.  He said that money can’t be used for the District Attorney, but could be used in the Sheriff’s Office.  He said they could re-direct revenue.  He commented that no matter what the Budget Committee does, they would get complaints.  He requested the Budget Committee make the right decision and set priorities.  He noted there is $51 million in the discretionary fund.  He noted because of the $1 million that was given back to the Sheriffs Office they were only looking at $3.5 million.  He suggested making a one-year budget cut of $1.5 million.   He said it would be less offensive and then they could work longer on the process for the next budget.  He passed out the book The Price of Government to all of the Budget Committee members.

 

Green asked if the 3,650 cases that are not prosecuted could be outsourced.  He asked what steps Harcleroad had taken for outsourcing.

 

Harcleroad commented there has to be a Deputy District Attorney in order to prosecute.  He said he would have to appoint people as Deputy District Attorneys.  He said it would have to be on a contract basis and he would have to negotiate the contract.  He added it would be difficult to negotiate that contract.  He noted they have law students who are third-year students licensed to practice under the supervision of an attorney.  He said they get course credit and do routine sentencing and arraignments.  He wasn’t sure how to contract that out.

 

Mortimore indicated the City of Eugene had contracted for years, but stopped because it was too expensive.  He added they hired their own attorney afterwards.

 

Green asked if the cities could buy prosecution services from the County.

 

Harcleroad said that could be a possibility.

 

Van Vactor noted he didn’t hear in the list of alternatives any allocation of the $500,000 the Budget Committee had discretion to allocate.

 

Harcleroad said he wasn’t sure where they should put the money.  He noted that Van Vactor ultimately decided to recommend 24-hour patrol with $38,000 to the DA’s office.  He was concerned about no police response in rural Lane County.  He added with $500,000 they could buy back the felony cases that were on the list.  He said if the Budget Committee would base the budget on priorities, they would have a better chance of passing a levy in the community than making across-the-board cuts.

 

Crowell asked Harcleroad to put his alternatives on a list to Garnick so they could be distributed to the Budget Committee.

 

Crowell asked if they could break down the 105 services from the general fund and report if it was something that could be done.

 

Garnick responded they could do it at the program level, but if they wanted specific services, only the departments could that.

 

Van Vactor stated they could do the report on a program level.

 

V. AJOURN

 

Chair Crowell adjourned the meeting at 9:45 a.m.

 

 

Melissa Zimmer

Recording Secretary