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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

State Finds Four Oregon Counties Still Merit Extra Scrutiny

Oregon Dept. of Forestry
Flickr -
File photo. Curry, Josephine and Douglas counties in southwest Oregon are all heavily dependent on federal timber revenue.

Four county governments in Oregon are still struggling enough that the state should continue to monitor their financial condition. That's according to a state audit released Tuesday.

Three of the four counties have a lot in common: Curry, Josephine and Douglas Counties are all in southwest Oregon. They all have some of the lowest property taxes in the state. Their unemployment rate is higher than the state average. And they're all heavily dependent on federal timber revenue.

Theaudit from the Oregon Secretary of State's office notes that these counties all have limited options for raising local revenue and in some cases struggle to provide basic county services such as public safety.

The fourth county on the watch list is Polk County, which is just west of Salem. The audit notes the county's situation is improving since it’s less dependent on timber revenue. And voters there approved a property tax increase last year aimed at beefing up public safety services.

The number of counties on the watch list has decreased sharply since the last such state audit of county government's fiscal stability in 2014.

“Our review found that a recovering economy and some strategic cost-cutting measures by our local governments has decreased the number of counties on our watch list from nine to four,” Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins said in a statement. “This is encouraging news.”