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Rural counties prepare for loss of federal timber payments

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

logs.jpgIf the money is really gone for good . . .

By 2008 Oregon county budgets may be full of holes. Thirty-three counties face declining revenue when a safety net passed in 2000 to make up for declining federal timber sales expires. Congress passed a six-year payment plan for rural schools and roads. Oregon counties received $280 million in 2005, but while they still have the same amount of federal land, no further payments have been approved. Although U.S. senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith are pushing  for a solution, here’s what could happen in some Oregon counties if a new bill is not passed:

Coos — A $7 million shortfall eliminates 40 sheriffs, 16 corrections officers and nine public health positions.

• Curry — Without half of the general fund, about $4 million, the county “might not be able to function,” according to commissioner Lucie LaBonte.

Grant — Reducing revenue by $6.2 million cuts two sheriff positions and increases class sizes from 18 to 30 students.

Jackson — All 15 libraries will close.

Josephine — A $15 million loss reduces space in the county jail from 262 inmates to around 50 and eliminates reimbursement for search and rescue operations.

Lane — Losing $20 million means 4,000 fewer applicants for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program receive assistance.

— Colleen Moran

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