Employment lowest in at least a decade

Last week, the Jefferson County Commission passed a "conservative" budget of $37.2 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year, down nearly $1.4 million from last year.

Under the new budget, the county will have fewer employees than it has in at least a decade — 134.1 full-time equivalent positions, compared with 135.3 for the year that ended June 30. Over the past seven years, the county has shed 52 jobs.

This year's reduction is a partly a result of the county contracting out its animal control services to Three Rivers Humane Society, which resulted in a reduction of 1.5 FTE, according to County Administrator Jeff Rasmussen.

Other changes included restructuring of the adult and juvenile corrections departments, which reduced staffing by .47, and the addition of one position in the assessor's office, "because of pending retirements," he said.

In the budget message, Rasmussen and Commissioner John Hatfield, the budget officer, note that the county used a conservative revenue projection and anticipates spending about $592,405 of reserves in the current year.

"We always take the assessor's estimate and discount it by 6 percent," Rasmussen said, noting that even though county residents pay their taxes in a timely fashion, the county does not want to be caught short if that ever changes.

The budget includes a $450,000 contribution to the capital fund, in preparation for the start of the new courthouse project.

"This year, we'll actually be starting the courthouse project," said Rasmussen. "Jefferson County's share will be about $7.3 million."

The current plan is for the design and bids to be completed and construction started in May 2015.

The county's insurance increased by 23 percent — from $346,101 in 2013-14, to $393,507 projected for 2014-15.

The increase is in general liability, he explained. "It's mainly employment claims. In an insurance pool, everybody shares risk, but you get individually rated on your claims history."

The county defended a layoff case from 2010 that was resolved in May 2013.

Regarding fee increases, Rasmussen said that the main one passed by the commissioners was "a new fee in anticipation of a Young Life Youth Camp."

The cost for the conditional use permit for youth camp facilities with more than 100 beds will be $5,000, plus $50 per bed for more than 200 beds, with a maximum of $20,000 charged.

"Under state law, that conditional use permit requires a substantial staff report that goes through all of Oregon's land-use restrictions," he said. "It's time-consuming and subject to appeal."

About a dozen fees in the surveyor's office will be increasing, such as the $20 increase in the partition plat review and filing fee ($460 up to $480), and the increase in the per hour fee for a plat review caused by a redesign ($105 per hour increasing to $120 per hour).

The permanent tax rate limit is $3.5662 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation, plus the $1.24 per $1,000 for the five-year jail operating levy. The jail construction bond was paid off earlier this year.

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