County audit in good shape, but timber interest fund trouble looms

November 26, 2011

The county budget process looks like its going to be in fairly good shape this year.

County Budget Director Sandra Borowy delivered an update on the county's audit process and had mostly good news to report.

"We're coming in clean with no major issues," she told the County Commission at its monthly meeting Monday night.

Bowery did, however, warn that action will be needed soon on the county's timber interest funds, which could be depleted in the next five years.

Currently the timber interest fund, which is interest accrued from the timber deposit fund, is largely used to balance the general fund.

However, with decreased timber revenues, the amount of money in the interest fund has been steadily dropping.

"It's on a trajectory to zero in four years if we transfer out of it at the rate we are now," Borowy said.

That the timber fund reaches zero would not be catastrophic in itself - the county just would not have the money available - but it is a symptom of a larger problem in counties that have long relied on timber revenues.

Borowy said that ideally the county would be able to find alternative revenue sources to make up for plunging timber revenues, but that the county is limited in what action it can take.

"It's going to be an interesting five to 10 years," she said.

Also at Monday's meeting:

The county heard from Cascade Locks interim City Manager Paul Koch and new Mayor Lance masters on progress reaching a new mutual aid agreement with the city.

"We hope to have mutual aid back on the Oregon side within 30-60 days," Koch said.

A 9-1-1 dispatcher in the audience said that in the interim it would be helpful to have policies in place on which department to tone out instead of waiting for a response from Cascade Locks, and Masters and Koch said they would look to Hood River Fire Chief Devon Wells for guidance on that issue.

The Commission heard an update from County Administrator David Meriwether on a proposed Transportation Act between Hood River and Clackamas Counties. The idea had previously been met with some reluctance by the commission because they did not see how such a move would benefit Hood River County.

"I just don't see how this helps us," Commission Chair Ron Rivers said.

Nonetheless, the commission agreed to continue monitoring the progress of the idea, and will appoint a commissioner to the project leadership team.

Brian Beebe, the county's director of records and assessment, discussed changes in the county's enterprise zone tax calculations which led to higher than necessary taxes being collected on Cardinal Glass and Mt. Hood Forest Products for several years. He said the county had caught the problem and that it had been fixed. Refunds would be going out to Cardinal Glass and Mt. Hood Forest Products.

"That's the first time I've had to make that type of phone call," Beebe said.

The commission appointed Ed Freysinger as a member on the Hood River County Commission on Children & Families Board.

The county adopted the Interchange Area Management Plan for exits 62, 63 and 64 after a brief presentation from ODOT planners and comments from Hood River City Planner Cindy Walbridge.

The county also updated its Animal Control Ordinance revision, which focused on updating language in the code to bring it up to modern standards.

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