A loss of federal timber
receipts is leading to budget trouble
April 1, 2007 Herald and News by Ty Beaver
Dan Golden, assistant director of the Klamath
County Juvenile Department, remembers one of
the youth who passed through his program. At
15, the boy was so low functioning that he
read at a second-grade level, committed crimes
and behaved badly to appease his peers.
Once in the juvenile system, correctional and
other staff discovered his limits and placed
him in rehabilitation, where he's getting help
and qualifies for disability assistance.
Such success stories may become less common in
Klamath County as local government has to deal
with the loss of federal timber payments.
H&N photo by Andrew Mariman
Pauline Mullendore, Chief Deputy Clerk at
Klamath County Public Records, glances over
records going back to the early 1870’s at the
Klamath County Government Center. The volumes
were being shipped out two at a time for
refurbishing but recent funding issues have
put a stop to that.
About $1.3 million, or 10 percent, of the
county's general fund came from payments based on
the Secure Rural Schools & Communities Self
Determination Act in 2006.
Another $10 million went to the county road
department budget, making up 65 percent of its
Surrounding counties, communities and schools in
southern Oregon and northern California also
depended on the payments for portions of their
There are certain services county departments must
offer, both by law and by necessity. That means
other services, while important, will fall by the
wayside or be shortchanged.
Officials remain optimistic that other revenue
sources will be secured or local representatives
in the federal government will push through an
extension of the payments. Until then, though,
budgets will have to face the chopping block.
The juvenile department is facing a budget with
funding reduced by $138,403 compared to last
year's. Those cuts will not only affect the
department's efficiency, but how well it can
rehabilitate the youth it deals with, Golden said.
One juvenile counselor/probation officer is
expected to be laid off. The department currently
has five counselors, each handling about 70 to 80
cases. Even without losing one of them, Golden
said the counselors have one of the highest case
workloads in the state.
Correctional staff will also be cut. At least one
full-time staff member along with one or more
part-time staff members are set to be laid off.
The staff supervises the department's detainees,
from chores and recreation to their schoolwork.
With less correctional staff on hand, Golden said
county's detention center would be pushed to take
in fewer youth. Currently, about 20 youth are in
the facility on a day-to-day basis. The cuts in
staff would reduce that by about 25 percent to 14
or 15, with those committing less serious crimes
being given diversion or probation instead. That
scenario concerns Golden.
“When you start bumping prisoners, kids begin to
think there's no accountability,” he said.
Klamath County Clerk Linda Smith said her
department is required to run elections along with
recording deeds, mortgages and marriage licenses.
Staff is already at a minimum, meaning the
department will have to cut non-essential services
and training, something Smith said she doesn't
About 30 to 50 people use the department's
passport service each week. Without funding,
though, that service is in line to be cut, leaving
the United State Post Office as the only other
place to get a passport in the area.
Smith said she is also looking at cutting travel
and training from the budget. Staff would rely on
manuals, e-mails and phone calls to state trainers
to prepare for elections. With the presidential
primary and election coming up next year, that's
not something she wants to be without.
“Everyday operation, no one's going to see, but
elections will be harder,” she said.
One other possible line item to fall by the
wayside will be the restoration of the
department's hundreds of record books of
mortgages, deeds and marriage licenses.
Utilized by the public as well as the department
to verify information for legal purposes, the
books have begun to wear out, and the paper is
disintegrating. Smith said the department was in
the process of sending two books out at a time to
be restored and preserved but that will be put on
hold now, further lengthening the process.
Roads is one area that will be heavily affected by
the loss of the county payments. According to
Klamath County's road department five-year plan,
the department will go from spending $16.5 million
in the 2007-08 fiscal year to $9.8 million in the
2011-12 fiscal year, surviving primarily on
reserves of about $100 million accumulated over
Unlike other county departments, the road
department will reduce its costs by not filling
positions as members of its staff retire. In five
years, about 20 people will remain in the
But the severe cut in funding will affect how much
work the department does. Stan Strickland,
director of public works, said the department will
be able to maintain what the county already has
but won't have funds for any improvements.
Several improvement projects are budgeted for the
next five years such as work to Shasta Way, Onyx
Avenue and the Sprague River bridges. Beyond those
no more will be placed on the schedule for work,
In Lake County, 90 percent of the county's road
department budget is comprised of federal timber
payments. Lake County commissioner Dan Shoun said
the loss will not only prevent improvement
projects but severely curtail maintenance efforts,
which could affect commerce as well as schools and
residents' travel. The county is also facing a
loss of 5 percent to its general fund budget.
“This would be a serious, serious detriment to how
we go about our roads in the future,” he said.
The effects of the payments also reaches down to
city governments. In Klamath County, about
$800,000 went to the incorporated cities for road
maintenance. That sum will be below $50,000 in the
Filling the gap
As local government prepares for the loss of the
payments that have funded them for a number of
years, officials are looking to how to fill the
gap the that loss creates.
Both Shoun and Klamath County Commissioner Al
Switzer said they hope for Congress to provide an
extension of the payments. The House has passed an
emergency supplemental bill that includes a
one-year extension of the payments while the
Senate passed that same bill with a five-year
extension. The bill's main purpose is to fund
military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Switzer stressed that economic growth will not
fill the void. The costs of government,
particularly when it comes to insurance for
employees, are growing quicker than taxes can
legally be raised.
“You can't grow yourself out of this,” he said.
Switzer said that he hopes for the extension not
to fix the funding issue, but to provide a window
of time for officials to establish another, more
stable source of revenue. The Klamath County
commissioner personally is working toward the
establishment of four trust funds created by the
selling of O&C lands in Oregon.
The O&C lands were private railroad lands that
reverted to federal management when they were not
sold. The money from selling them now for
sustained timber harvest could potentially create
a base of funding that could permanently replace
the federal payments.
Both commissioners said that while their
governments were feeling the pains of fiscal
belt-tightening, the situation could be worse.
Oregon counties west of the Cascades are cutting
as much as 50 percent of their general funds
because of the loss of the payments and one, Curry
County, is facing bankruptcy.
Shoun said he is optimistic that Congress will
provide an extension of the payments. In the
meantime, he said his county is looking for other
alternative sources of funding to supplement their
“I'm confident that it will work out,” he said.
- By Ty Beaver