May 30, 2012
Salem – The Secretary of State Audits Division produced the first ever financial condition review of all 36 of Oregon’s counties, and suggested eight that should be monitored, based upon 10 financial, economic, and demographic indicators.
Auditors analyzed the financial statements and other data from all 36 counties to identify financial concerns, and then conducted more in-depth analysis of those counties that may be at a higher risk of distress. Federal forest payments, due to run out, had the largest impact on their assessments. Not surprisingly, the eight counties identified by the auditors are Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, and Polk. The auditors also obtained information from these counties on steps they have taken to address their financial situation.
“This is the first time that an independent review has been conducted of the financial health of our counties using a common set of economic indicators,” said Secretary of State Kate Brown. “This report establishes a baseline for state and local policymakers to monitor the financial condition of our counties, which are important partners with the state in the delivery of services. We will update this report every two years to track the improvements or declines.”
The report does not contain recommendations to the counties, noting that decisions about county taxes and levels of service are based upon local priorities. Nonetheless, the report compiled the laws, strategies, and actions used by other states in dealing with local governments in financial distress.
“Each county’s situation is different and there is no single solution,” said Brown. “This report is an important step in government transparency and accountability, making it clear how our counties are holding up under the loss of federal timber dollars and the recession.”
Auditors compared indicators among counties such as timber revenue dependence, debt burden, retirement benefit obligation, public safety spending, personal income per capita, population trends, and unemployment.
The report can be found at www.sos.state.or.us/audits.
For more information, please contact
Oregon Secretary of State