By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

County planning for hold-the-line budget

The Yamhill County commissioners decided Wednesday to ask department heads to plan on getting by with no general fund increase next year, unless they can make an especially convincing case in next spring’s budget hearings.

The commissioners held a special Wednesday work session to review forecasts for next year’s revenue and discuss the implications for departments dependent on the general fund. With Public Employees Retirement System costs expected to rise dramatically, and additional expenses being incurred from the Affordable Care Act, they decided the county needs to be socking away as much money as possible.

County Administrator Laura Tschabold and Deputy Administrator Chuck Vesper presented commissioners with a spreadsheet showing the amount each department is expected to have left when the 2015-16 fiscal year begins July 1, the amount the county allocated them from the general fund this fiscal year and the amount an across-the-board 3.99 percent increase would allow.

Tschabold told commissioners she and Vesper were not recommending such an increase, just presenting a set of calculations to give the commissioners a starting point to consider.

In general, the county’s departments appear to be in sound financial shape, she said. And the forecast is for $24.4 million in general fund revenue next year, up from $19.6 million this year, she said.

Tschabold said that means the commissioners could grant county departments a 3.99 percent increase and still have money left to address unanticipated needs or shortfalls.

But she warned commissioner the county’s PERS contribution is expected to rise $542,000, in today’s dollars, in 2017. Currently, she said, it’s running $4.1 million.

Each department is expected to cover its own portion of the county’s overall PERS obligation. That’s built into personnel costs.

But commissioners said they would like to start setting money aside in 2016 to cover the projected 2017 increase, along with any other unexpected costs that may come up. Distributing only $19.6 million in general fund revenue would leave the county with $4.8 million to set aside for future costs, they noted.

The commissioners themselves are not covered by PERS. Instead, 10 percent of their salary goes into a 401(k) retirement plan.

State officials from the public pension office have been warning cities, school districts and counties that pension costs are predicted to soar to an unprecedented level in 2017. They have cited the Supreme Court’s rejection of an attempt by the state Legislature in 2013 to cut cost-of-living increases, weaker than expected returns from the stock market, lower recent rate increases and changes in funding assumptions.


Horse with no name

PERS is sucking the life out of our state because it is unsustainable. When a person on PERS can stockpile sick and vacation time toward the end of their retirement to artificially inflate the income their retirement is based on, many end up making more in retirement than they were making while working. Who else gets that kind of sweetheart deal from their employer? PERS is the biggest money problem in our state and appears unsolvable except for grinding the taxpayers up till there is no more. That is not a solution. Maybe a commissioner could formulate a solution to that problem, since they aren't part of the problem. I'm sure the one with a winning plan would have a great chance to be propelled to the Governorship where we all could enjoy the benefits of their labor.


Three issues here-
First, the 1998 PERS board was the body who credited all the stock market increases of the 90s to the individual employees accounts. So who oversees the PERS board? The legislature. So where were our elected legislators (Leslie Lewis and Gary George) while this was going on? Second, Yamhill County has had a County Administrator and Deputy County Administrator for about five years. The Commissioners saw this as a solution to their inability to manage and show up for work. No County even close to our size has a Deputy County Administrator. The combined loaded salaries of these two is about 1/2 million dollars. Solution, we didn't need them to begin with so have the Commissioners do their jobs like they did for decades before that and Yamhill County instantly has the money to cover the PERS problem. Three, the increase in General Fund revenue for next year as reported in this article is $5 million dollars. Unless there is gigantic waste going on, (which may be the case), there most certainly is plenty of money at the County. That's ten times the projected PERS increase for 2017! So why are the Commissioners playing games with the departments?

Don Dix

Horse & Pinot make valid points -- When everyone that is involved in the PERS structure is also a PERS recipient, the loop is immune to outside influence.

Public unions buy the seats in the legislature (thru candidate contributions) -- that purchase leads to passage of foolish and unsustainable promises (by design) -- challenges to any changes are decided by judges (who are also PERS members) -- and everyone else is only allowed to participate by paying up! What could go wrong, right?

Example -- Margaret Carter was in the legislature for 20 plus years -- average salary about 25K per year. She resigned from the Oregon Senate in 2009 in order to take a job at the Oregon Department of Human Services. The hiring was criticized since the new position paid $121,872 annually, which, along with other similar moves to the public sector by other legislators, led to the introduction of several bills to curtail such practices. None of the bills ever became law (big shock, eh?)

This position was 'created' to accommodate Carter, so she was the only applicant. Since retirement benefits are based on the last 3 years of service, presto, a significant raise in PERS retirement bennys!

The solution is obvious -- never vote for any candidate who is 'sponsored' by any of the public employee unions. Since the Dems have had control of every elected state office for years, the PERS situation lays comfortably in their bed. The problem is, as long as they keep getting elected, nothing will change. Kinda' difficult to 'shame' complicity when a conscience is not a requirement to hold office!

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