Lane County

Budget Committee

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

5:15 p.m.

APPROVED 5/20/2004

 

Chair David Crowell presided with Bobby Green, Anna Morrison, Bill Dwyer, Don Hampton, Peter Sorenson, Scott Bartlett, Mary Ann Holser, and Kathy Keable present.  Francisca Johnson was excused.  County Administrator Bill VanVactor, David Garnick, and Recording Secretary Malinda Dodson were also present.

 

I.  Call to Order 

 

David Crowell called the meeting to order at 5:15 p.m.

 

II. Committee Business

 

None.

 

III.  Assessment & Taxation Report

 

Lane County Tax Assessor Jim Gangle passed out a handout that provided a tax rate comparison of all 36 Oregon counties ranked on income. (Copy in file.)

 

Gangle stated that the Strategic Plan identifies Assessment & Taxation as a mandated service based on the Oregon Constitution.  A&T processes are defined in Oregon Statutes and Oregon Administrative Rules.  Further, the Oregon Department of Revenue has Supervisory Authority, making sure that A&T is in compliance with the constitution, statutes, and administrative rules.  He pointed out however, that good management cannot be mandated and that his staff has worked hard over the years to cut corners and provide citizens with the most efficient service.

 

According to Gangle, the average account per employee across the state is approximately 2,006 whereas in Lane County it is roughly 3,000.  Every year A&T applies continuous process improvement evaluation by looking at ways to provide more efficiencies.    A&T is heavily invested in technology because they rely on the computer system to manage 160,000 accounts. 

 

Gangle continued, stating that the cost to restore the A&T budget is $200,000 versus a loss of two million dollars if it is not restored.  Gangle provided an overview of this relationship.  First, A&T identified a 9 percent decrease in the general fund in three ways: 1) Increased Revenue, 2) Reduced Costs, and 3) Reduced Staff.

 

Gangle explained that $127,000 was generated as revenue through a combination of a change in some penalty laws, increasing some sales and fees, a new industrial late filing penalty was put in place, and some one time revenue in the amount of $100,000 from the fleet fund will be split in half over two years.

 

Gangle stated that costs were reduced through cuts to materials and services.  Additionally, because there were so many retirements in A&T, it allowed them to hire positions at mid-range rather than top range resulting in a savings of approximately $65,000.

 

Finally, Gangle said that reductions to staff and further reductions to materials and services all represent a reduction of about $197,000 explaining the $200,000 figure.

 

Gangle pointed out that they have been sliding down a slippery slope for some time and that issues they have been dealing with will be exacerbated with the reduction of staff.  For example, there have been tax district boundaries not maintained on maps. Additionally, they are behind in property divisions, and inaccurate appraisal data has impacted the conversion process stemming back to 1999.  Further, commercial information has not even been loaded into the system, and no significant physical appraisals of property, other than new construction, have been done.

 

Gangle said that with the proposed reductions, new construction, property divisions, and personal property on the roll will not be completed.  Additionally, delays in payment processing are expected, and information to citizens will be reduced.  He stated that A&T handles approximately 200 telephone calls and 50 people at the counter per day.

 

Gangle added that in terms of revenue to the County, this means a loss of approximately $1,000 in interest, $4,000 in personal property, and $140,000 in property and new construction.  This is in addition to the 1.6 million dollar grant that A&T has been denied.  Gangle stated that there is an additional $66,000 loss by not including positions in the original grant.  Gangle further stated that these numbers do not reflect what happens if the 1.6 million dollar cut is taken.

 

Gangle stated that it is expected that a letter will be received from the Department of Revenue this week stating that the grant has been denied and that Lane County will have until June 1, 2004 to amend the grant.

 

According to Gangle, Marc Kardell of County Counsel is working on gathering information for the Board regarding the appeal process to the Department of Administrative Services.

 

Gangle recalled that they did go through an appeal process in 1990 but that the laws around the appeal process have changed.  He noted that at that time, the staffing level allowed them to maintain compliance and get back into compliance within a six-year time frame.  The current staff level would not achieve this.

 

In response to Sorenson, VanVactor stated that there was no agreement to support an intergovernmental agreement process among the cities of Eugene and Springfield and that Assessment and Taxation is viewed as a County responsibility.

 

Sorenson stated that he felt there was no other choice but to add the money.

 

Dwyer asked where does it end and what do we do next year.

 

VanVactor stated that there are three possible approaches.  The County can prioritize A&T as a critical county function and fund it so it doesn’t go through this annually, by reducing services elsewhere. The County could also make a big effort at the 2005 legislative session, or they can pursue some new revenue options, if Lane County is going to remain a general-purpose government.

 

Green asked what alternatives have been considered in reductions to public information.

 

Gangle said there has been an evaluation of the information being provided and to whom it is being provided.  Alternative ways of providing that information are being looked at.  One example is that a survey was done a number of years ago that revealed one of the primary pieces of information the public wants access to are maps.  As a result, maps are now available on the internet.

 

Gangle said that A&T is currently talking with LCOG about the Regional Land Information Database providing internet access to information.  A proposal will be brought to the Technology Management Team (TMT) to look at providing that information.

 

Morrison asked if the cost in working with LCOG was included in the A&T budget.   Gangle said it would be an additional cost that would need to be looked at.

 

Morrison asked if map grants are included in the A&T budget.

 

Gangle stated that the ORMAP grant that Public Works goes through is part of the A&T grant process.  He stated that of the $93,000 Public Works received, 70 percent of that pays Jeff Turk’s salary because he manages foreclosed property and the Board of Property Tax Appeals in Deeds and Records.  The supporting clerk is also paid through the grant.

 

Gangle departed from the revenue discussion and stated that of 165,000 tax statements, approximately 13,000 will be incorrect in 2005 because there will be personal property accounts, new construction accounts and property division accounts that will not be done.

 

Crowell asked at what point does backlog become a problem.  Gangle answered that is where they are this year having skated on the edge with property divisions all along in terms of unmet needs.  Gangle feels that they have opened the door for the Department of Revenue to review where Lane County currently stands with their backlog.

 

Sorenson commented that although the budget committee is faced with having to substantially cut the budget, they cannot lose sight of providing a wide array of general government functions. He recognized the service that A&T provides as a vital function.

 

Bartlett commented on Multnomah County’s practice of including inserts with property tax statements.  He questioned if Gangle would consider doing something similar at some point.

 

Referencing Bartlett’s comments, Sorenson stated that adding an option that would allow 165,000 taxpayers to add on a voluntary amount might be a way for the County to raise money for worthwhile purposes such as Lane County’s animal shelter.

 

Gangle stated that it is going to cost to do this and in the past has been met with resistance due to the management of such a check off system.  He stated that he is already struggling with keeping costs down without adding another layer of complexity.

 

IV.  Justice Courts Budget

 

David Garnick provided handouts and presented budget information on the Justice Courts. (Copy in file.)

 

Garnick reported the budget direction in past years has been for the justice courts to be self-supporting and not use any discretionary general fund.  That direction continues in this years proposed budget.   Garnick reminded members that last year the justice courts took a $100,000 cut, leaving each rural court with one part time judge and one clerical person. There is a total of 11.75 FTE for all justice courts with expenditures totaling $3 million next year.

 

Garnick stated that revenues are up about 9 percent due to the sheriff removing a shift for patrol and shifting deputies to the traffic team.  The traffic team that was authorized for this year was never filled, therefore those deputies would immediately start generating revenue.

 

Garnick added Central Lane primarily handles traffic citations totaling over 30,000 citations a year. Garnick referred to a hand out reflecting between $10 – $11 million of uncollected fine revenue and that Central Lane’s aggressive collections process produces approximately a $.5 million per year in trying to recover those.  He stated that because they are a huge operation, they generate over $4 million of actual revenue with $1.8 million to support the traffic team over and above the court operation, while some goes to other jurisdictions.

 

Garnick mentioned that misdemeanor cases the District Attorney’s office has indicated will not be prosecuted, only account for approximately 5 percent of Oakridge’s caseload.  It is anticipated that the impact will not be severe.  He pointed out that Oakridge stated that it would actually save them money because they don’t make a lot of money on those cases.

 

Garnick said Florence Justice Court is in a different position because misdemeanors represent a large portion of their caseload.  If those cases are not prosecuted they will either have to reduce their workload, reduce their hours, or look at what the County Administrator’s justice court task force recommended in terms of redistributing Central Lane’s work load and shifting districts around.

 

Garnick reported that In July, 2003 one position was added to Central Lane to handle their caseload. When the state courts reduced their operations by one day, many people started going to Central Lane resulting in a 1000 percent increase in small claims, and a 5,000 percent increase in civil cases.  If the fully funded traffic team generates additional caseloads the clerk position, which was budgeted, but not funded, will need to be filled.

 

Garnick summarized by stating it is basically a status quo budget they did not take a 9 percent cut because they do not use discretionary general fund money.

 

Sorenson asked if there is any flexibility in shifting the funding burden to minor offenders rather than taxpayers.

 

Harcleroad stated that fines are set by state law.

 

VanVactor stated that County Counsel could look at it, explaining the Board could adopt an ordinance that would make it a violation and not a misdemeanor.  The Board would then set the fine rather than the District Attorney.

 

Sorenson expressed that we need to be thinking broader.

 

V.  Public Works Budget

 

Department Director Ollie Snowden referred to page 310 in the proposed budget document and provided an overview of Public Works services, stating that Public Works operates, maintains, and improves County road and bridge systems, County parks system, and County solid waste facilities. They provide building, planning, and code enforcement, maintain survey records and monuments, and their fleet services division owns and maintains all heavy equipment and most light vehicles operated by County employees.

 

Snowden stated that the budget for FY 04-05 is approximately $137 million which funds about 387 full time employees and five divisions:  Engineering, Waste Management, Parks, Land Management, and Support Services.

 

Snowden explained there are six funds that are unique to Public Works.  They are the road fund, solid waste disposal, fleet motor pool and equipment, parks and open spaces, corners, and a special projects fund for parks system development charges.  He added that although the road fund is in public works, the Sheriff’s office receives about $1.7 million each year for the weigh master, and inmate road crew.  Additionally, about $200,000 goes to management services for custodial personnel at the Delta location.

 

Snowden noted Land Management Division is the only division in the general fund, however, they receive no discretionary general fund and much of the fee-based revenue that is generated has statutory or contractual restrictions on its use.   He noted all divisions are required to balance budgets with available revenue and without discretionary general funds.

 

Snowden requested that three add packages be considered by the budget committee: 

 

1)  Land Management assumption and administration of the electrical program from the state.

2)  Creation of an electronic equipment-recycling program for waste management.

3)  .6 FTE in support services for Delta custodial services.

 

Snowden highlighted several initiatives which divisions hope to accomplish including: leveraging technology to improve customer service efficiency, developing a reserve in land management so that they can better fund compliance litigation, being leaders in environmental stewardship, and continuing to seek ways to improve productivity, control costs, and increase effectiveness.

 

Snowden referred to the packet containing the budget overview addendum reflecting technical adjustments due to recent developments, two of which relate to the Oregon Transportation Improvement Act passed in the legislature in the last session.  (Copy in file)

 

Snowden said Public Works will receive $4.8 million from the OTIA3 program to design and replace five County bridges.  Additionally, $1.4 million will be received from OTIA3 for operation, maintenance and preservation.  Additionally, Public Works requests to move $1 million from the unappropriated ending fund balance into the operational contingency fund to allow for uncertainties in fuel prices.  If fuel prices remain high, a supplemental budget will be brought forward next year to move money from the operational contingency fund to the operational budget for fuels in fleet.

 

Public Works Engineering DivisionSonny Chickering

 

Lane County Engineer Sonny Chickering presented on the engineering division of Public Works and the road fund.  He stated that Lane County has a substantial road and bridge system compared to other counties.  Lane County has over 1,400 miles of road and over 400 bridges.

 

Chickering outlined investments in the road and bridge system:  1) Operations, Maintenance and  Preservation,  and 2) Capital Improvement Projects.

 

Chickering said in addition to modernization projects, there are capital expenditures related to payments to other intergovernmental agencies such as the road partnership to Lane County cities as well as community development assistance grants and roads for assisted housing.

 

Chickering stated that it is anticipated that OM&P and CIP road fund projects will generate a substantial amount of revenue in 2004-2005, the largest being federal timber receipts.  He added, that if the Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act is not renewed, or even renewed at lower dollar amounts, it would have an impact on the CIP and the road fund in general.

 

Chickering explained that the next major component of road fund revenues is state user taxes and fees.

 

Chickering reviewed core functions and key accomplishments of the engineering division, which include the Transportation System Plan recently adopted by the Board.   He also listed interagency cooperation as one of the major challenges.

 

Objectives for the coming year include continuation of GIS application, repair or replace 5 OTIA3 bridges, continue to work on the last resort herbicide policy, and participate in the online permit application of the E-Government initiative.

 

Chickering provided comparisons of Lane County services in comparison with Clackamas, Marion and Washington counties.  (Copy in file)  Lane County has a substantial number of bridges compared to other counties noting that they are a considerable expense.

 

Sorenson mentioned the relationship between traffic deaths and road design, and asked if there is anything in the budget that addresses the high death rate on County roads.

 

Chickering stated that there are systems in place to monitor and analyze the most dangerous areas in Lane County.  Accident data is kept on hand and each year as part of CIP, Public Works uses this to bring roads up to the latest national standards.  Chickering said they constantly attempt to improve the safety of County road systems by removing trees, poles, and other obstacles.

 

Bartlett asked if given the number of bridges in Lane County, and the deferred maintenance schedule of them, it is prudent to keep those allocated funds in check.

 

Chickering stated that in the past they have had more latitude in sharing that money with the cities, however, due to the uncertainty of the renewal of the legislation, discussions are starting to take place on how much the County can share.  If the allocation was reduced or goes away the Board would modify that policy to protect the road systems.

 

Kathy Keable asked if more bike lanes are being added, given the rising fuel costs.

 

Chickering said bike lanes are automatically included in urban projects.  In rural areas they have been widening roads with 5 - 6 feet of paved shoulder, serving a dual purpose as recovery areas and bike lanes.

 

Green asked if it costs more to add bike lanes.

 

Chickering explained there is an incremental increase in base rock and pavement that adds to the expense, as well as the impervious surface collecting more rain water which could result in a larger storm sewer system.  Additionally, right of way for acquiring more land for widening, adds to the cost of the project.

 

Green asked if a formula could be developed to capture the cost.

 

Chickering stated that it is difficult to quantify the amount of benefit received in terms of doing a cost benefit analysis.

 

Snowden commented that they are required by Oregon law to spend one percent of state highway revenue on bike lanes and report back to ODOT.

 

Waste Management - Patty Hanson 

 

Hanson referred to page 338 of budget document and provided a handout describing the different components of each division.  (Copy in file.)

 

She stated that the solid waste fund is the second largest fund totaling 30.5 million dollars.  Reserves and intra-fund transfers total 15.6 million dollars and is earmarked for the future development of Short Mountain landfill, and closure and post closure costs. 

 

Hanson reported that the fund supports the Waste Management Division, which has 78 employees, operates Short Mountain landfill, and 16 transfer sites.  It also pays for the household hazardous waste and recycling programs.

 

Hanson described the enterprise fund as a major source of revenue based on user fees.  Currently Solid Waste monitors four landfills: Franklin, Florence, Oakridge and Veneta.

 

Hanson provided a comparison to Clackamas, Marion, and Washington counties. (Copy in file)  Snowden pointed out that Lane County has 16 transfer sites throughout the county as well as programs such as household hazardous waste, and recycling that other counties do not have.

 

Hanson gave an overview of key accomplishments in FY03 including phase four at Short Mountain landfill, and the purchase and initial development of Quamash Prairie for required wetland mitigation.  She provided a map of the property. (Copy in file).

 

Hanson said the value of the property at purchase was $855,000 with $550,000 provided by Title III.

 

Hanson noted that phase 3 is still underway.  Part of the closure fund will be spent to close phase 3.

 

Hanson stated that the useful life of the facility is improved through recycling programs, yard debris disposal, and education to citizens.

 

Sorenson asked if taxpayers would need to pay additional money as a result of problems at Short Mountain and leachate.  

 

Hanson stated that the Paul Corporation is only paid if the product is successful.  Snowden added that if Paul Corporation can’t deliver the product they are contractually obligated to, PW would have to consult with legal counsel and look at other options.

 

Hanson referred to page three of the handout highlighting the Lane County Solid Waste Management plan.  (Copy in file)  One of the key issues of the plan is the reduction of toxic materials in the landfill.  Solid Waste has identified an electronic recycling program as a way of reducing toxic waste and has requested that this be considered as an add package in the amount of $323,775.

 

Hanson reported that on April 6 an RFP was released to the public for a contractor.  The bid from the contractor that they are interested in selecting would allow them to reduce the add package by $79,000.

 

Hanson stated that they were also able to lower fees by setting up a voluntary program for citizens to make appointments that would allow Solid Waste to properly dispose of electronics.

 

Hanson requested budget approval for $244,711.

 

Crowle requested that a summary of budget implications be brought to the May 18  meeting.

 

Parks - Todd Winters and Howard Schussler

 

Winters presented an overview on what Parks plans to provide to residents and visitors in Lane County. (Copy in file) There are 59 properties, 37 developed properties, 4,034 acres and over 2.1 million visitors annually.  He stated it costs about a dollar per visitor per day.

 

Continuing, Winters said forty-two percent of Parks funding comes from car rental tax, while 49 percent is funded through user fees.  An additional 19 percent is support through state parks and the state marine board. The remaining funding comes from grants, partnerships and miscellaneous revenue.

 

Sorenson observed that 76 percent of the car rental tax goes to the division accounting for 42 percent of the budget.  He asked if Delta Airlines would drive up the number of car rentals.

 

Winters said although that would be their hope, one of the major rental shops have closed. He stated although it is driven by the economy,  it is fluid and one of the relatively stable funding sources.  Winters forecasted that it would remain status quo at about $875,000.

 

Sorenson asked if parks could increase fees to decrease car rental tax.

 

Winters stated that to stay competitive this is not an option and that fees are currently at an optimal level for the services provided.

 

Bartlett asked for long-term outlook and plans to allow for population doubling by the year 2050.

 

Winters explained that the current plan is 24 years old and extremely outdated.  Parks has budgeted to develop a new plan this year with a long-term outlook for the metropolitan area.

 

Land Management - Jeff Towery

 

Towery reviewed the summary of Land Management’s budget on page 321 of  the budget document.  He stated that about 90 percent of the general fund portion of their division is generated from fees and charges.

 

Towery stated the proposed budget includes fee increases for building, planning, and sanitation approved by the BCC.  The net increase of the budget is approximately 5.5% (not including the add package).

 

Towery stated that the two primary areas where the division will be focusing service improvements are E-Government and technology.  It is expected that in the coming year credit card payments and electronic checks will be accepted for permit payments.  Additionally, the ability to make reservation requests for building permit review, as well as the ability to purchase a number of permits will be available online.  Process improvements will continue to be implemented, particularly around the process of planning applications.

 

Towery noted that organizational changes include transferring two counter staff into Land     Management services.

 

Towery explained the proposed add package of assuming the electrical permit process from the state.  Currently the State of Oregon is the authority for issuing, monitoring, and enforcing electrical permits but Land Management has made an application to the state that has been tentatively granted to assume this function.  The impact on the budget is approximately $360,000 with no net cost to the division and would add two full time building inspectors.  This will help generate revenue that will help fund E-commerce.

 

Towery described the surveyor’s budget as status quo.  The program has lost 5 out of 22 people from PERS retirements in the past year.  He added that budget reductions, combined with an increase in survey filings over the last year have resulted in a positive change of direction in the corners reserve.

 

Sorenson asked what is being done to reduce the imagery that Land Management is funded by the programs it regulates in order to keep programs going.

 

Towery stated there are two initiatives underway, one of which is being more aggressive and consistent in applying their compliance program, as well as treating Land Management more as a revenue operation. Building and maintaining a reserve would get through tough economic times as well as relieve the pressure in issuing building permits to fund compliance.

 

Sorenson observed the inequity of 1 FTE funded for compliance in relation to the approximately 160,000 personal and real property accounts.

 

Morrison stated that to say there is only one compliance officer is an error when there  have been two in the past.  She pointed out the reluctance of the board at times in pursuing the compliance piece in a collaborative sense. She acknowledged that staff has done a tremendous job in bringing properties in compliance.

 

Green commented that it is fair to say that even two compliance officers is inadequate for a county the size of Lane County.  He added that past boards have no merit with the current Board and that money needs to be directed in order to improve the process.

 

Sorenson stated that if the County was serious about enforcement they would put money into it, and referred to the Board-approved interfund loan allowing departments to partner up and borrow money under certain circumstances.  He asked if Towery has considered this to jumpstart a more aggressive enforcement method.

 

Towery stated that he has been more focused on allocation of current resources and is hesitant to ask for an interfund loan without knowing how to pay for it in the future.  

 

Sorenson asked if there is any thought in tapping funds from Waste Management to address related crimes around the County.

 

Towery indicated that currently Land Management does receive about .5 FTE funding from Waste Management for the compliance program.  Additionally, Land Management works on a case-by-case basis with Waste Management to deal with clean up and disposal of property.      

 

Support Services - Dale Wendt 

 

Support Services Manager Dale Wendt presented a report on the support services division of Public Works.  The division is comprised of three program areas:  administrative services, fleet, and facilities. (Copy in file.)

 

Wendt reported that last year accounts payable paid $30.9 million to vendors and accounts receivable billed approximately $13.3 million to customers.  450 contracts were processed, and 10,400 paychecks were processed to public works employees totaling approximately $16.7 million.

 

Wendt stated that all road fund revenues are accounted for in support services.  Fees and charges of 6 million dollars include 4.8 million of fleet revenues for vehicles repaired for outside agencies.    He stated that there is $72 million in the four Public Works funds and the goal is to increase interest earnings by 1.5 percent.

 

Wendt mentioned the add package requesting .6 FTE to assist with custodial services at Delta. Currently there are two custodians, but they have converted warehouse space to office space and training facilities, which has increased the maintenance level.  With long-term employees and increasing time management, one of the two FTE’s works alone for approximately ten weeks out of the year, which they consider to be unsafe.

 

Wendt added that Recent Capital Improvement projects include shops in Veneta, Dexter, Florence, a training facility, a car wash and the Delta fuel system.  The Veneta shop was completed in May, 2003 costing about 1.4 million dollars. The Florence shop was recently completed costing $180,000.  The car wash was completed in 2003 and was $180,000 project.  Finally, the new state of the art fuel system at Delta was completed in November of 2003 totaling $285,000.

 

Continuing, Wendt said Fleet services provides fuel, preventative maintenance, and repair services for departments that is built into the rent rate for 274 vehicles.   In addition they have a number of outside customers including Lane Community College, Bureau of Land Management, U of O, CitiCorp, and the State of Oregon.

 

Wendt stated that Pool vehicles cost approximately $7 - $8 per day plus mileage and include a selection of sedans, vans, sport utility vehicles, and hybrids.   Sedan mileage is currently 13 cents per mile but will increase to 16 cents in the new budget year.  Hybrids are 11 cents per mile or $250 per month.

 

Sorenson asked about the status of Sheriff’s office vehicles maintained by Public Works.

 

Wendt stated that the issue will go to Finance and Audit committee on May 18 and if it were added, an additional technician would be required.

 

Wendt informed members of the budget committee that the budget was built on projected fuel prices and that today’s prices are significantly higher than what was projected.  He stated that there is  $700,000 in their contingency fund built into the budget to cover fuel increases based on current prices.  He noted that Trade magazine predicts an increase of $2.00.

 

Wendt reported that four hybrids have been purchased and to date they have demonstrated an average of 46.14 miles per gallon, making them a viable investment. 

 

VI.  ADJOURN

 

Chair Crowell adjourned the meeting at 9:15 p.m.

 

 

Malinda Dodson,  Recording Secretary.