Overall, the financial condition of Oregon counties has improved since 2014, based on increases in per capita income and declines in the unemployment rate. While four counties are still at financial risk of distress, 5 of the 9 counties identified as at-risk in 2014 have seen notable economic improvements. Actions taken by at-risk counties to address their financial conditions are outlined in the report.
We first issued a county financial condition report for the State of Oregon in 2012 with updated reports to be issued every two years. The primary source of data for the report is each county’s audited financial statements for fiscal years 2006 through 2015. Since our report in 2014, many counties have improved their financial condition. For example, every county experienced increases in per capita income and declines in unemployment rates. Nearly all counties indicate a strong liquidity position with a ratio of at least $5 of cash on-hand for each $1 of short-term obligation.
For purposes of our analysis of Oregon’s 36 counties, we selected 10 indicators that provide a general assessment of financial condition. For each indicator we present a detailed discussion. We also looked at the declining federal timber revenue to counties to identify added financial strain.
Although many counties have improved their financial condition since 2012, four counties continue to be identified as counties to monitor; that is, counties whose financial condition may indicate a higher risk of distress. We performed additional analysis on these four counties, which are individually portrayed in the Counties to Monitor section of this report:
Some of the counties have initiated varying strategies to address their situation. We summarized their actions and plans within this report. We do not propose solutions for counties because decisions about county taxes and the level of services are based on local priorities, within practical and legal requirements and limitations.
Early identification of financial problems enables a government to introduce remedies sooner. State monitoring of local governments can provide assurance key partners in service delivery are financially sound, and if warning trends appear, can also prompt action. A key challenge facing several states and their local governments is the right solution when a government is in severe financial distress.
Read more on the financial condition of Oregon counties, this year and in 2012 and 2014.