EUGENE, Ore. — Lane County leaders are watching Congress closely, hoping lawmakers approve a transportation bill that includes federal timber payments.
The county just passed its budget earlier this week, but it received news Wednesday that it could be coming into about $10 million in federal funds. And while it’s not set in stone, there have been talks about how that money could be spent.
Budget and financial planning manager Christine Moody says Congress is going to pass a one-year extension of Secure Rural Schools funding.
That’s great for the Lane County Jail, right? Not exactly.
“We’re not allowed to use road funds to fund the jail. That’s federal law. That’s not the county deciding, That’s when you receive money from a different source they are allowed to tell you how to spend it. So that’s what the federal government is doing,” Moody said.
Lane County will get $10 million, but $6.5 million has to be spent on roads. Only $3.5 million can go in the general fund. That’s the money county commissioners have to work with.
“Over 100 streams of funds that come into the county are restricted. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some flexibility in how the money is used,” said Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson.
That flexibility is what is drawing interest from the public.
“Public safety is a real issue. You’ve got criminals. I picture them all over the state going, ‘Let’s go to Lane County. We’re not going to jail,’” said Lane County resident Kymbreynn Borden.
If we get that money, county commissioners may discuss how the money could be used at their July 11 meeting.
Sorenson is encouraging the public to come out to that meeting, saying that while their hands are tied in many ways in how the money could be used that there is some flexibility and that with enough public attention and input there might be a way to use those funds to fund issues like public safety.