558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Crook County expecting more revenue for new budget
However, they may need to help fund Crook County Open Campus
February 07, 2013
As Crook County prepares for another budget cycle, local officials could face some new financial challenges, but should get a boost from anticipated revenue gains.
The County budget committee does not officially meet to work on the budget for two more months, but committee members have gathered on a quarterly basis to stay on top of financial changes.
They held their second quarter session late last month, and members were given a few reasons for optimism. The County is on track to end the fiscal year with an ending fund balance of more than $1 million, and will likely have enough money to give employees a 2 percent cost of living raise and keep 401K retirement contributions at their present amount.
“We are kind of right on track with this year’s budget,” said Crook County Treasurer Kathy Gray.
The County has benefited primarily from a land sale to Apple for its data center as well as the building permit fee income generated by construction at the Facebook and Apple data center sites.
“Facebook fees for their big buildings are about $450,000,” Gray remarked.
The County has also received news from its Assessor’s Office that they could see an increase of as much as 2 percent in property tax revenue this year. Crook County property tax income has declined each year since 2010.
“Our direction is looking as strong as we have seen in years,” said Crook County Commissioner Ken Fahlgren. “I feel pretty optimistic about most of what we are doing.”
At the same time, the County will again face the prospect of some increased expenses. Gray is planning to budget a for a 12-percent hike in health insurance premiums as well as 10 percent jump in workers compensation rates. In addition, they may have to pay an additional $40,000 in PERS payments for Crook County Sheriff’s Office staff.
The County could also wind up providing some funds for Crook County Open Campus. Jason Carr, chair of the Crook County Higher Education Council, said that Oregon State University (OSU) had to pull back funding for the local Open Campus coordinator position, which they had typically funded at 100 percent. He said that OSU made the decision in order to free up money to expand their open campus concept to other rural Oregon communities. OSU will now pay $35,000 of the approximately $105,000 in salary and benefits.
“So what this means is the community is going to have to step up to the plate to fund the rest of the position if we want a full-time coordinator to remain at the Open Campus facility,” Carr explained.
Fahlgren said that nobody has yet approached the County to fund the position, and he does not necessarily think they will.
“We still feel that it’s possible (for Open Campus) to have other partners,” he said. “It’s outside of what we have budgeted. We do have a conversation ahead of us, but I really feel like we probably will have partners in part of that. I just don’t know who they will be.”
If they have to help pay the position, Gray said the County will need to dip into their reserves because all of their general fund dollars are claimed for other uses.
In spite of the challenges ahead, Gray agrees with Fahlgren that the County rests on better financial footing than they have in the past few years, and she hopes to see more of the same in the future. At the same time, she remains cautious and does not intend to proceed as if Crook County has already recovered from the recession.
“We are not done with all of this yet,” she said.