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Jordan gives overview on county budget health

As dollars for discretionary spending shrink, it's taking more creativity to retain funding for Jackson County programs.

Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan explained the county's finances Monday during the monthly Chamber of Medford/Jackson County Forum at Rogue Valley Country Club.

"Sometimes when I talk about the budget, people look at me like either they don't know what I'm saying or I don't know what I'm saying."

At times, it takes Solomon-like wisdom.

"This morning, my 14-year-old daughter and my 9-year-old daughter got in an argument about who was going to spend time with our Pomeranian," Jordan said. "I'm trying to get ready for work and prepare this budget, and I said to them, 'Hey, you need to knock that off or I'm going to split him up,' and my 9-year-old said, 'Fine, I get the head.'

"So if you feel like we're talking about that drastic of an issue, I may need to spend more time with you."

Through a variety of approaches backed by the county commissioners, Jordan has helped reverse declining reserves, which are now the highest in the state.

"Since the time I became county administrator in 2006, we have lost $27 million in (annual) discretionary revenue," Jordan said. "Our total property tax is just over $30 million, so we've lost almost half of our discretionary revenue in that time."

Nonetheless, the county is in better shape than a year ago. Eight years ago, the county had 1,071 employees. Now there are 902, up from 844 a year ago.

"Almost all of those people are added in under the Health and Human Services Department as a result of the Affordable Care Act," he said.

During the fiscal year starting July 1, the county's $306 million operating budget calls on spending $5.3 million more than incoming revenue.

"That doesn't mean we're spending $5.3 million we don't have," Jordan said; it's in a savings account.

One astute outside-the-box effort that produced additional money was taking out a loan associated with the new county health and human services building.

"We had cash," he said. "Some people have been critical of the fact that we took a loan, and that shouldn't be something that government should do."

The county, however, was able to obtain an $8 million credit line at 1 percent with no fees.

"It wasn't a bond issuance and didn't involve a financial advisor," Jordan said. "We invested $8 million at 1.5 percent. We're making the debt service over five years. We're making more in interest than we're paying in debt service."

Without selling investments, the county is netting $350,000.

Headed into a new fiscal year, the county has $43.7 million in general reserves, following a year with $26 million in reserves, he said.

"That's $17 million in growth in our reserves," he said. "We have almost $87 million in the bank on a $306 million budget. When the Secretary of State did an audit of O&C counties, they found our county had the highest fund reserve of any county in the state, including Multnomah County."

At that point, it was $73 million.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.