Friday, May 24, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
March 19, 2013
POLK COUNTY -- Polk County's federal timber payment received in February was about $80,000 short, or 10 percent less than expected.
Another casualty of budget shortfalls and federal sequestration?
Well, yes and no.
Across-the-board cuts caused by the federal sequester account for part of the reduction, but not all of it.
As the sequester wasn't ordered until March 1 and the payments were made on Feb. 5, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) withheld 10 percent just in case the cuts were necessary. A 10 percent cut amounts to about $4 million to Oregon counties.
But as it turns out, only about 5.1 percent was authorized to be withheld under the sequester.
Last week, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley asked for the remainder to be distributed to counties.
"Several are already on the brink of bankruptcy, and if these funds are not released many will need to cut further the basic public health and safety programs that its citizens depend on," Merkley wrote in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar dated March 13. "This mistake must be corrected without delay."
Looks like Merkley's request may have been granted.
Friday, Polk County Commissioner Craig Pope received an update from Rocky McVay, the executive director of the Association of Oregon & California Counties, indicating that the BLM was preparing to make a supplemental payment to counties accounting for the 4.9 percent, or about $2 million.
While it's not the full $80,000 cut from Polk County's payment, County Administrator Greg Hansen said the loss of funding wouldn't require any further reductions.
Hansen said as the timber payment -- slated to be about $800,000 before the sequester -- was just a one-year extension that was approved after the county's 2012-13 budget was adopted, most of the money was placed in reserves.
"I didn't budget for it in the first place, but I had some shortfalls in other places so it was good that we got it," he said.
News that some of the funds would be sent came as a pleasant surprise to Pope, who recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., where he met with members of Oregon's Congressional delegation on Feb. 28.
He said at the time lawmakers weren't optimistic counties would see any of the money.
That changed Friday.
"It looks like we might have some movement on this," Pope said.