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Columbia County will eliminate furlough days

Commissioners report budget turnaround; courthouse to open five days a week

Columbia County commissioners announced Wednesday afternoon that the county plans to eliminate furlough days for county employees, starting July 1.

Currently, county employees who work at the Columbia County Courthouse take eight furlough days each year. The courthouse is closed to the public on Fridays, but employees still work there most Fridays.

Commissioner Earl Fisher said the courthouse will soon be open to the public five days per week.

Budget constraints caused the county to implement furlough days as early as 2010. What started as a schedule of taking off eight days without pay in 2010 graduated to 26 unpaid days in 2012, according to audit documents. The county reduced the furlough days back down to 12, and then eight days per year in 2015 for most employees, with the exception of emergency responders and Roads Department employees.

HEIMULLERNews of the furlough eliminations signaled a turnaround of the economy and property values in Columbia County.

Commissioner Henry Heimuller credited the county’s industrial users, like Portland General Electric, with providing a boost in property tax revenue, “because we convinced them to build their new power generation facility in Columbia County.”

The county is also benefiting from a Strategic Investment Plan between PGE and Business Oregon, which granted hefty tax breaks to PGE in the range of $11 million to $14 million. The tax breaks were an incentive for PGE to construct a new energy plant at Port Westward, providing substantial tax revenues to Columbia County.

PGE operates three natural gas and oil-powered energy generation plants at Port Westward in Clatskanie, with the combined capacity to generate more than 1,100 megawatts of electricity.

Earlier this year, commissioners were faced with a $1.7 million budget short-


HYDETony Hyde, president of the board of commissioners, said each department’s requested budget was reviewed, and budgets were adjusted to close the gap.