EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- Lane County is in for a severe blow July 1. Major budget cuts will cost the county more than 220 workers. For years, County number crunchers knew there was a "cliff" up ahead . . . and now Lane County is on the brink.
Public safety services will take the biggest hit. The sheriff's office - the biggest part of the budget - will lose 80 full-time employees, leaving about one patrol deputy for every 700 square miles.
Sheriff Tom Turner put it into perspective. “You put yourself in that position of you're waiting for someone to come assist you and they have to drive 54 miles before they get there. And that was the shortest distance," Turner stated. " It could be longer than that. It depends on where you are in the county. And that makes it really, really difficult when you think about that.”
The cuts could mean the biggest reduction of jail space in county history - 131 jail beds could be eliminated, leaving only 120. Other county agencies will share the pain:
- 18 full-time workers have been cut from District Attorney’s office, saving about two million dollars. The DA could also lose 13 positions in the Criminal Division, meaning the misdemeanor prosecuting team will be disbanded. This team handles drunk driving, domestic assault, strangulation, menacing, animal abuse, small-value property crimes and wildlife offenses; those crimes could go unprosecuted.
- Public Works may reduce its operating expenses by more than seven million dollars and cut more than 40 workers.
- The Lane Events Center would also lose two workers.
- The Lane County Assessment and Taxation Department, which collects money to keep the county operating, could lose six employees in one division, causing backlogs for file management. Losing five workers in the appraisal division could mean the property tax system would suffer.
County Administrator Liane Richardson told reporters there is no bright side in all of this. “We’ve already cut all the services that we deem are not essential and all we have left are essential services,” Richardson said. “And we've heard from the community and we've heard from the Board of Commissioners that everything we provide at this point is important to the community.”
The Budget Committee said its only option to provide some of those essential services is to call for proportional cuts in every department that uses the Feneral Fund.
The County will hold a public hearing at May 1, inside Harris Hall at 8th Avenue and Oak Street in Eugene. Another public session will be held on May 17.
The new budget will be finalized by the end of June for start of the new fiscal year July 1, 2012.