Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen on Thursday, May 2 unveiled a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year that is stable after years of difficult cuts.
Cogen said when presenting his budget at the Board of Commissioners meeting that several factors contributed to the stability in the fiscal year 2014 budget.
Those factors include years of tough budget decisions -- and prudent financial choices -- by the entire Board of Commissioners. And they include, Cogen said, sacrifices by county employees that have included pay freezes two of the last four years.
The chair also noted the benefits of a recovering economy, albeit a slow recovery; and the faith that county voters showed by strongly supporting a Library District last November that will allow all library branches to restore seven-days-a-week services and continue their extensive outreach to families and seniors.
“Despite our ongoing external challenges, I am confident my budget preserves and prioritizes badly needed direct services that clearly reflect our county’s values,” Cogen said, citing core priorities of caring for vulnerable people, nurturing diversity and equity, keeping people safe, reducing costs, spending taxpayer money wisely, increasing sustainability and working with community partners.
The chair said one benefit of having difficult budgets the past several years is that they forced the county to think more strategically and to find operating efficiencies. That ethos remains, he said, in his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Cogen also noted that he directed all departments to make a 1 percent reduction from current service levels in their general fund budget requests, asked internal service providers to build status-quo budgets using current service levels; and set aside about $2.1 million to mitigate the worst impact of the federal sequester and potential state cuts.
Here are some of the highlights from his proposed budget:
- $207,000 to begin funding Mental Health First Aid training for more than 700 first-responders in the county who will learn how to identify and provide help to people in emotional distress.
- $1.5 million in one-time-only money to help the city of Portland and Home Forward maintain their commitment to short-term assistance for people at risk of becoming homeless.
- $3.34 million for the newly expanded Southeast Health Center so Southeast Portland residents can be closer to primary care, family medicine, behavioral health services, pharmacy lab services and dental care all in one convenient spot.
- Nearly $1 million of investment in eight high-poverty SUN community school sites -- at Jackson Middle School, Whitman Elementary School, Franklin High School, Mill Park Elementary School, Gilbert Heights Elementary School, Menlo Park Elementary School, Glenfair Elementary School and Parklane Elementary School.
- $245,000 to double the number of Summer Youth Connect internships at Multnomah County to 100.
- Maintaining funding for the county’s current 1,310 jail beds and funding all of the current county-funded 64 deputy district attorney positions.
- $1 million County General Fund investment to continue work dealing with the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
- Adding one position to the county’s Emergency Management structure for continuity of operations in an emergency, and a second position to address the needs of vulnerable populations during an emergency.
- Investing to replace an estimated 30 cars a year over the next three years to decrease maintenance costs and get better fuel efficiencies
- $1 million for early planning to replace the century-old downtown Courthouse, which is seismically unsafe and no longer safe for the judges, court staff and jurors who who must be in that building.
- Nearly $9 million worth of investments for ongoing capital needs that include the Health Department headquarters planned in downtown Portland in partnership with Home Forward.
- A $125,000 one-time capital investment for The Children’s Center at Steven’s Creek Crossing; and $500,000 for a one-time capital investment in the Earl Boyles/David Douglas Early Learning Facility.
Cogen concluded his remarks by thanking county employees for their sacrifices and voters for their support of the Library District.
The chair also thanked his board colleagues, Commissioners Deborah Kafoury, Loretta Smith, Judy Shiprack and Diane McKeel, as well as District Attorney Rod Underhill, Sheriff Dan Staton and County Auditor Steve March.
And he thanked Budget Director Karyne Kieta and her staff for their hard work; all the county’s department directors, departmental leaders and their budget staffs; his Chief of Staff, Marissa Madrigal; and the county’s Chief Operating Officer, Joanne Fuller.
There will be three public hearings in May on the budget, all beginning at 6 p.m.
The first will be Wednesday, May 8 at the Multnomah Building, 501 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., Portland. The second will be on Wednesday, May 22 at the East County Building at 600 N.E. 8th St., Gresham. And the third public meeting will be on Wednesday, May 29 at the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization at 10301 N.E. Glisan St., Portland.