By HANNAH HOFFMAN
Of the News-Register
Yamhill County's 2011-12 budget looks fairly stable compared to those of many Oregon counties.
However, little new construction means little new property tax revenue. Meanwhile, the county's pension obligations are slated to rise about 25 percent over the course of this year and next.
The additional Public Employee Retirement System burden, coupled with cuts being anticipated in state funding, are cause for some concern, according to County Administrator Laura Tschabold. She said, however, that county department heads have done a good job of budgeting conservatively as a reflection of recessionary times the last couple of years.
"Departments have done a good job of saving through tough times," she said. "We've been able to minimize cuts because they've been prudent budgeters."
The county is expecting about a 2 two percent increase in general fund revenue, taking it from about $17.6 million for 2010-11 to about $18 million for 2011-12. Tschabold said the increase, fueled by new growth, has historically fallen into the 3 to 4 percent range.
Tschabold said some departments are dependent on state funding, and may see cuts this year as a result, depending on what the Legislature does. The Juvenile, Community Corrections, Veterans and Health & Human Services departments all stand to lose funding under Gov. John Kitzhaber's austerity budget proposal, she said.
When the Veterans Department faced a shortfall for the current 2010-11 year, the commissioners gave it $17,500 from video lottery receipts and other departments chipped in another $10,000 from their allocations, she said. But she said it would need another $10,000 to keep two employees on board next year.
Tschabold said PERS obligations represent both a short- and long-term concern. She said soaring costs will affect the county for many years to come.
Rates are computed for a county each biennium. And rates are up for 2011-13, because state investments suffered when the economy soured.
For Yamhill County, the new rates are 15.38 percent for Tier One and Tier Two employees, 12.05 for public safety employees and 9.34 for Tier Three employees, the newest hires. Those represent increases of about 3.5 percentage points for Tier One and Tier Two employees, and two percentage points for public safety and Tier Three employees.
During the 2009-10, the county's most recent completed fiscal year, its PERS obligations totaled $2.3 million. They are expected to run about $2.9 million in 2011-12, accounting for almost 17 percent of the county's entire general fund budget.
Tschabold said that's a heavy burden to bear, and could lead to elimination of positions.
"It's expensive," agreed Deputy Administrator Chuck Vesper. "There's no other way too look at it. Unfortunately, the county has very little to say over how much it costs."
The three county commissioners plan to begin the first round of budget deliberations at 9 a.m. Monday in Room 32 of the courthouse.
However, the full budget committee, on which the commissioners will be joined by three lay appointees, won't begin its work until May. And public testimony won't be taken until then.