Commissioners allow Westbrook to retain leadership role on boardNo new staff positions or programs - the Clatsop County commissioners maintained the same hold-the-line budget policies the county has adopted in the past several years.

Commissioners voted Wednesday on policies for the 2004-05 budget process that call for no new personnel or programs and a directive to "seek reductions wherever possible." They also call for limits on materials and services costs, and block replacing lost state funding with county money.

They will, however, allow the transfer of a portion of the county's share of state timber revenue into the operating budget.

The policies will be used as guidelines as the county assembles the budget for the 2004-05 fiscal year. Meetings of the county budget committee are scheduled for May.

This year's process takes place as the county is crafting, with the help of a consultant, a long-range financial plan designed to lay out the county's fiscal situation for the next several years. The project was set to begin today.

"This will lend some better direction to the board," County Administrator Scott Derickson told the commissioners.

Among the issues the financial plan is expected to help address is the pending shortfall the county will face in the next couple of years. Finance Director Mike Robison said projections show the ending fund balance, which has been held steady at $1.2 million a year, will start decreasing and the budget will begin sliding toward the red in 2006-07 without additional revenue or spending cuts.

The long-range financial plan will also look at the county's use of state timber money. Most now goes into the Special Projects Fund used for one-time purchases, but beginning last year the county chose to divert $660,000 into the General Fund operating budget.

The budget policies allow for the same level of transfer in the 2004-05 budget.

Commissioner Sam Patrick said he worried such transfers "could get out of hand" and leave the county with too little money for other obligations normally covered by the Special Projects Fund. He suggested a cap on the amount of transfer to the General Fund.

The policy limits the amount of the timber fund transfer to an amount equal to the lowest total amount of timber dollars the county received in the past 15 years, or $660,000.

In other business, the commissioners approved a new 99-year lease with the board of Camp Kiwanilong.

The camp's board of directors sought a long-term lease with the county to better enable it to acquire outside funding for repairs and improvements to the facilities, which have hosted camp programs since the 1930s at the 200-acre expanse of forest, lakes and dunes south of Fort Stevens State Park in Warrenton.

"We thank you for your cooperation. We understand our obligations in here, and we take them seriously," board member Deborah Dempsey told the commissioners after their vote.

The new lease requires the Kiwanilong board to submit a long-term plan to the county every five years.

The camp has a long list of needed improvements, including repairs to building roofs and floors and replacement of a 50-year-old water line. To secure funding for those projects from potential donors, the camp board needs a long-term arrangement with the county, which has owned the property since the 1930s but leased the camp to the Kiwanilong board since the 1980s.

The camp runs its own summer programs, and also leases the facilities out to schools, 4-H, church groups and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

In other business the board, on a split vote, re-appointed Helen Westbrook as chairwoman of the commission and Lylla Gaebel as vice-chairwoman.

The board voted 4-1, with Commissioner Sam Patrick voting against, for Westbrook's appointment, and 3-2, with Patrick and Commissioner Richard Lee opposed, for Gaebel.

Patrick said after the vote that he supported a system in which the chairmanship of the board would rotate from commissioner to commissioner on an automatic basis.

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