This week, commissioners in Curry County are scheduled to make some difficult decisions about the county's impending fiscal emergency.
During February's legislative session, Oregon lawmakers created some new tools to help counties facing fiscal insolvency. Curry County is expected to be the first off the cliff, with $5 million dollars in obligations coming due in July. A gradual pruning of county services has parceled out the county animal shelter, home health, and other agencies.
But the prospect of deep cuts in departments like public safety have direct consequences for some Oregon coastal cities, like Brookings. Gary Milliman is the Brookings City Manager. He says the gutting of the county has meant a lot more work for bureaus like his city's fire department, which is now making more runs into unincorporated areas.
"But there are other complications when the incident may be a crime scene, or there may be an active crime in progress," Milliman explains. "And the volunteer firefighters and ambulance service are faced with making a decision about how to respond."
Or say, for example, Curry County has to carve up its office of assessment and taxation. Milliman says the slowdown in tax collections could mean a delay in collecting thousands of dollars of city revenue.
This week, commissioners might invoke new administrative powers granted by the legislature, giving them license to drastically restructure the budget, renegotiate debt and give some services back to the state. They're also scheduled to vote later this month on whether to refer a five-year, three percent sales tax to voters.
But Gold Beach Mayor James Wernicke predicts trouble getting voters on board.
"Right now the solutions are really hard to find," he said. "Tax increases are not well-received anywhere."
Curry is one of several Oregon counties hurting from the loss of federal payments which offset the loss of revenue from timber harvests diminished by environmental regulation.
Two weeks ago, Lane County decided to close its morgue and no longer send deputy medical examiners out to death scenes as it deals with the loss of those federal payments, too.