County continues to battle decreased timber revenue

Jan. 22, 2011

After dealing with major cuts in recent years, the Hood River county budget is in decent shape according to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, delivered to the Hood River County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

"We obviously were in difficult times," County administrator David Meriwether said in an interview. "We took a lot of severe measures over the last couple of years."

One of the bigger ongoing financial issues for the county is the continued decrease of timber sales funds. Timber sales dropped $1,559,349 between the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years.

Overall, general assets for the county decreased by $1,794,836. County revenues dropped by $5,819,417 largely made up of decreased timber revenues and a decrease of $2,714,981 in operating grants and contributions and a $1,141,087 drop in capital grants and contributions while the county decreases spending by $671,748.

Getting the brunt of spending cuts were community services with $638,477 and forestry with $121,226 in reductions.

Public works and general government were the largest increases in spending at $87,500 and $79,524, respectively.

Despite the drop in revenue and the budget cuts things could have been far worse. The county actually reduced its bonded debt by three percent ($240,000) and began to pull back furlough days by county employees.

Meriwether said later that it was necessary for the county to make cuts to deal with declining revenue and escalating costs and to keep the budget in shape going forward.

"Under the circumstances we feel we did pretty well," he said. "We don't anticipate that next year things will be as bad as it has been."

"Individual increases and decreases in expenses were necessitated by county management's evaluation of needs and resources," reads the reports summary of government spending activity.

"Revenue changes, such as reduction in charges for services and timber sales resulting from economic conditions that are not under our control. Grant revenues are affected by federal and state funding availability and the county's need for funding of programs. Judicious, planned spending caused the modest rise of expenses in an inflationary time."

The commission praised Budget Director Sandra Borowy for her department's work.

"You are to be commended," Chairman Ron Rivers told Borowy. "Especially since you were working one person short, we understand."

"She has done a commendable job," Meriwether added.

Borowy said the full report, which was independently audited by Pauly, Rogers and Co. of Tigard, should be posted on the county website shortly.

Other agenda items from the meeting:

The commission adopted a resolution to formally state it would not be adopting any further roads into the county road system until it had the money to do so. County Public Works Director Dean Guess said there had only been two applications in three years to have roads adopted, largely through roads in subdivisions, and that it was not a large issue but that the road maintenance budget was stretched as far as possible.

Brian Tuck of the Oregon State University Hood River Extension Center discussed future funding options with the commission during its work session. The commission assured Tuck that the extension center's work was important to the area and also encouraged him to feel out the possibility of a special taxing district for the extension center to help it avoid future budget cuts.

Following a presentation from Ryan Goodwin of Hermosa Tours, which is seeking a permit from the U.S. Forest Service to conduct mountain bike tours in the Mt. Hood National Forest, the board agreed to draft a letter saying it supports mountain bike tourism in the county.

The board also approved a contract for work on energy-efficiency improvements in several county buildings as well as approving the county to move ahead with a culvert project on Evans Creek at Hutson Drive.

The board next meets Tuesday, Feb. 22, due to the Presidents Day holiday.

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