CANYON CITY – County Treasurer Kathy Smith last week waved a caution flag regarding any new spending on county staffing before the 2014-15 budget figures firm up.
Smith noted the uncertainty about federal PILT – payment in lieu of taxes – and the specter of not just one, but possibly two juvenile criminal cases producing unusual costs for the county.
Smith told the Court the county’s cash carryover for the general fund this year was $1.7 million, but she’s projecting a drop to $1.1 million “at best” for 2014-15.
“That means if we had no changes to the new budget, we would be $600,000 short to operate on for next fiscal year,” she wrote in a memo to the Court on cash projections.
However, she noted there may be additional costs – a suggestion backed by Parole and Probation Department director Dean Hoodenpyl.
Hoodenpyl confirmed the county expects at least $50,000 in costs over the coming year for detention of the teen accused in last August’s double murder at a hunting cabin near Granite.
Dillan Dakota Easley, 14, remains at the Northern Oregon Regional Corrections facility in The Dalles, with Grant County picking up the tab for housing and medications.
Hoodenpyl said he plans to ask the attorneys in that case to seek an order for the state Department of Human Services to help with the costs. The youth, who is not from Grant County, was in state foster care in Baker City at the time of the shootings.
The case is on hold until attorneys can argue a motion on whether to try him as an adult. That hearing is set for Sept. 8 in Grant County Circuit Court, although the parties agreed at a status hearing last week to look into an earlier date. The attorneys told Judge J. Burdette Pratt that psychological assessments are still pending.
However, the County Court was told a second juvenile case, involving a sex offense, could add to the county’s costs if that teen is returned to the county to face prosecution. The boy, who was 15 at the time of the alleged crime, is now 17 and living out of state.
Hoodenpyl said he would meet with the district attorney to discuss what happens next with that case.
Smith’s warning to the County Court meeting was spurred by two unrelated proposals to increase personnel costs paid by the general fund – one was to fund a full-time maintenance person for the fairgrounds, and the other to increase a part-time library staffer to full time for a year to 18 months.
The Court decided to have the Fairgrounds advertise for its existing half-time maintenance job, now vacant, and asked Librarian Vicki Waters to pursue the other proposal in the budget committee process.
The budget committee begins a series of meetings on the 2014-15 budget on Friday, March 14, starting at 9 a.m.
Meanwhile, Court members were watching to see if PILT gets approved in the new Farm Bill, under consideration by Congress.
Smith has projected the county’s PILT could come to $300,000, down from $600,000 in the past.
“If it’s fully funded, you’re still going to be short – but not as short,” she said.