Local and County News

Incredible Letters to Governor Kitzharber

 

<<< One Letter to the Governor from the Curry County Board of Commissioners, February 15, 2012 >>>

…Re: Returning County Services to the State of  Oregon…

Dear Governor Kitzhaber:

Curry County is at a critical juncture in its long and storied history. If Curry County does not soon receive additional revenues to maintain services, a downward spiral of events will unfold. First, the County would have to cut an additional base amount of approximately $2,000,000 from the discretionary resources portion of the General Fund Budget of $5,100,000 effective July 1, 2012. In order to achieve budget requirements, Curry County would actually have to set aside an additional $1,000,000 in the budget because of unfunded unemployment  benefits. Approximately 40 employees out of the approximately 78 funded by the General Fund and Administrative Fund would need to be terminated effective July 1, 2012. The level of services provided by Curry County for fiscal year 2012-2013 would be so drastically reduced that many essential functions could not possibly be performed. It would only get worse for fiscal year 2013-2014 for which the Board of  Curry County Commissioners  would have to cut approximately an additional $1,500,000 from the already drastically reduced previous year’s budget.

Under the above-referenced scenario, Curry County would have to return to the State of Oregon many shared services as early as July 1, 2012. This is your notice of that very real possibility or even likelihood. Some of the services to be returned to the State of  Oregon could include, but are not limited to, mental health services, public health services, alcohol and drug prevention, environmental health, elections, building permits and inspection, sanitation, and assessment  and taxation.

Curry County has been exploring local solutions. It has considered spinning off certain programs to private non-profit entities. In addition, Curry County has formed a Citizen’s Committee to identify and explore all viable revenue and expenditure opportunities to achieve fiscal solvency and stability for Curry County government now and in the future. The Committee has recently submitted to the Board of Commissioners nineteen total recommendations, and they are all now being studied. Of course, it is unknown at this time as to whether any of the recommendations  for increased revenue will be able to be successfully implemented. It is also possible that some opportunities for increased revenue might arise but at a later date in a time subsequent to the upcoming budget process. Under these circumstances, we invite the State of Oregon to provide assistance and partnering to the County in resolving the financial crisis. A successful partnering with the State of Oregon should actually ease the burden on the State of Oregon in light of the many County services that could be returned to the State of Oregon.

 Thank you very much for your consideration of this letter.

 Sincerely,

 BOARD OF CURRY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS

 cc:   Michael Jordan Representative, Peter Buckley Representative,  Dennis Richardson Representative,  Bruce Hanna Representative, Arnie Roblan Senator,  Peter Courtney, Senator Diane Rosenbaum, Senator Jeff Kruse, Representative Wayne Krieger, Mike McArthur

 _________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 <<< Another Letter to the Governor by Thomas Huxley, February 20, 2012 >>>

Governor Kitzhaber,

Re: Curry County Board of Commissioners letter dated Feb. 15, 2012; Returning County Services to the State of Oregon

This letter concerns the general finances of Curry County, the above subject letter and prior correspondence sent to you dated Dec. 24, 2011, a copy of which is attached. 

The county’s February 15th letter focuses on the tried and failed techniques of whining for more revenue coupled once again with fear mongering about looming ‘unfunded’ unemployment benefits.  Page 2 of the letter makes mention of the infamous Citizens’ Committee created to provide commissioners the opportunity to later claim (Pilot 2-15-2012) “The Citizens’ Committee suggested the sales tax.” Not this Citizens’ Committee member.

Committee members were provided a table showing federal forest payments to Curry Countybeginning fiscal year (FY) 1977/1978. The county received $7.3 million dollars in 1977/1978 and similar amounts for decades. Adjusted for inflation $7.3 million would equal around $26 million in 2010 dollars. Where did all the money go?

As a member of this committee, my hope was to provide constructive recommendations regarding the structural makeup of the county including interdepartmental communication, work flows, sharing of and duplication of data input, etc. You can’t build a structure on a grossly inadequate foundation.  If you do the structure will collapse. Approximately three weeks after the committee first met Nov. 30, 2011 and after review of information provided by the county, I submitted eighteen written questions to county personnel along with an explanation and reason for each question.  Fourteen questions were for county counsel and the finance director.

For example, recently county elected officials including the clerk, assessor, district attorney and sheriff sat and waited for over thirty minutes for a scheduled elected officials meeting with commissioners while commissioners, county counsel, the director of administration and maintenance personnel discussed authorizing county personnel to secure an estimate for repairs on a leaky roof.

One question submitted to the county attorney was, what types of decisions now made by the commissioners could be delegated to others?  Counsel was asked several questions regarding mandated services such as what services could not be outsourced?  The finance director was asked what were the current total cumulative negative balances (liabilities) of county departments by individual department? The director was also asked to provide the location of financial information required by ORS 294.250. County commissioners were asked if they would support hiring a county administrator and reducing their positions to part time if recommended by the Citizens’ Committee?

 Not one question was answered.

 A letter regarding the value of the Citizens’ Committee from the perspective of a Citizens’ Committee member dated Jan. 25, 2012 is attached for your review. 

According to recent news accounts, commissioners are on a fast track to place one or more tax measures on the May, 2012 ballot. No serious discussions have ensued regarding county benefit reductions. 

The following employer paid benefits are from the Curry County Master Payroll Fiscal Year 2011/2012 – August 2011. Totals are rounded off.

 Gross Pay:                  $597,000 month $7,164,000 year

 Health Insurance:        $151,000 month $1,812,000 year       25% of gross wages

 PERS – County:          $77,000 month $ 924,000 year               13% of gross wages

 PERS – Employee:     $35,000 month $ 420,000 year                6% of gross wages

 Social Security-FICA $46,000 month $ 552,000 year             8% of gross wages

 Vacation, holiday & sick leave                                                              8% of gross wages

 Total average benefits percent of gross wages – All employees 60% of gross wages

 * Expect 5% (approximate) PERS increase July 1, 2013 based on Dec. 31, 2011 PERS investment fund returns.

 Governor, do you know of any business in the private sector in Curry County that provides similar benefits?

 Opinion

 Curry County commissioners are doing exactly what was predicted in a Curry County Reporter Editorial Nov. 9, 2011 titled “Citizens committee nothing more than a ‘cover’ for a tax levy” which was published before the committee was even formed.

 Curry County should reverse a decades old policy of not accepting roads (with very few exceptions) into the county road system and maintain those roads prior to raiding ‘road funds’ to shore up county employees retirement accounts.

With respect to the Citizens’ Committee recommendation that commissioners immediately proceed with the transition to part time and recruit a county administrator, one commissioner Feb. 18, 2012 is reported saying “To me, this is a long-term process. It should be a vote of the people. Any citizen out there can form a PAC [political action committee] and go about it.” If accurate, this statement exacerbates the fact the Citizens’ Committee was a SHAM.

The PERS mentality continues in the direction reported May 2002 by Brent Walth – The Oregonian; http://oregonstate.edu/senate/agen/reports/PERS0210.html According to a tape recording of an Oregon Investment Council meeting January 1995, Randall Pozdena (Ph.D. – Economics) a newly appointed member questioned Mark Johnson of Milliman & Robertson, the PERS actuary on the PERS 8 percent guarantee. Johnson offered there was a safety valve. “There is something to fall back on,” Johnson said. “And it is the taxpayer.”

 The tail (public employees) has been wagging the dog (citizens/electorate) for decades.  Curry County is financially insolvent. The current employee wage and benefit package is NOT sustainable. The Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) is a 1,000 Ib. Gorilla. Government has an addiction and insatiable appetite for our tax dollars.

 Recommendation

 Solution #1

 The geese that for all these years laid the golden eggs have died and gone to heaven, never to return. Over the next five months, collective bargaining needs to be removed from the equation. Pending available funds, current employees may be offered jobs under a non-union structure. Health insurance premiums paid by the employer must not exceed a generous $500 per month. PERS would not apply. An affordable, competitive and much less costly retirement alternative should be evaluated.

 Solution #2

 Allow the county to do what the private sector has done under similar circumstances for the past century. Collapse, restructure and emerge a stronger, leaner entity with competent leadership and without the 1,000 Ib. Gorilla on it’s back.

 Sincerely,

 Thomas Huxley

Harbor, OR

 Cc: Electronic Copy:  Governor John Kitzhaber(D), Michael Jordan (Dir. Admin. Services), Representative Peter Buckley (D), Representative Dennis Richardson (R), Representative Bruce Hanna (R), Representative Arnie Roblan (D), Representative Wayne Krieger (R), Senator Peter Courtney (D), Senator Jeff Kruse (R), Senator Diane Rosenbaum (D), Mike McArthur (Dir. AOC)

 

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