Chair's 2018 Budget: "Bracing for a Storm of an Unknown Size"

April 20, 2017
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury on Thursday released her proposed 2018 budget. The $2 billion budget maintains the county’s investments in housing, strengthens support for mental health in schools and jails, and continues support for families and children.

The budget also reflects belt-tightening in every department and a doubling down on essential services in the face of potential state and federal cuts. About 112 full-time positions are being eliminated, or about 2.2 percent of the county’s 5,600 full-time positions.

“We are bracing for a storm of an unknown size,’’ Chair Kafoury said. “State and federal commitments to our community are uncertain. We do not know whether critical investments in housing, mental and physical health care, and other services will continue.”

The Board of Commissioners adopts an annual budget to plan for delivering services and how to manage the public dollars that support them. The Board of Commissioners will hold hearings from 6 to 8:00 p.m. in the following locations:         

  • April 26, 2017 – Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) Gymnasium, 10301 NE Glisan St., Portland (hosted by the Communities of Color).
  • May 3, 2017 – Multnomah Building, Board Room 100, 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland
  • May 10, 2017 – East County Building, Sharron Kelley Rooms, 600 NE 8th St., Gresham.
The Chair’s proposed budget must be approved by the Board in May and then submitted to the Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission, an independent panel of five volunteers appointed by the Governor that helps determine whether the county’s budget complies with local budget law. The panel holds a public hearing and returns the budget to the county on May 17, 2017, at 9:30 a.m. at the Multnomah Building, 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

The Board will also take testimony before its final adoption of the budget, set for May 25, 2017.

The Chair's 2018 Priorities

In her budget proposal, Chair Kafoury continues the county’s $10 million investment in homelessness and housing services and an additional $3.2 million in ongoing and one-time-only General Fund resources. Her budget also provides roughly $7.5 million more in ongoing funding, rather than relying on one-time-only funds for the Joint Office on Homeless Services.

The Chair’s budget increases support for our mental health crisis system and funds overdose prevention work, adding $211,078 for opioid overdose response training and naloxone, an emergency drug that can reverse the effects of an overdose.

Her budget includes a new investment in mental health case management services for children, furthering the county’s collaboration with teachers, improving our outreach and prevention efforts, and bringing additional skills training and resources for children and families.

It further invests in resources that build on the success of the Healthy Birth Initiative Program, which supports pregnant African American women and their families to improve birth outcomes and long-term health through culturally specific strategies. By layering this work with resources and support from the Department of County Human Services, we will ensure that families who participate in this vital health program also have improved access to case management, financial education, housing stability and workforce support

This budget maintains the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) initiative. This year, for the first time, the county will partner with the City of Gresham to integrate additional mentoring opportunities for young people in East Multnomah County who are in need of support, continuing the county’s focus on putting resources where they’re needed most.

Public Safety Priorities

The Chair acknowledged a recent report by Disability Rights Oregon on the experience of people with mental illness in the county jails, saying the budget reflects  work to address our community’s mental health needs and reduce the use of incarceration by providing $750,000 for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD®, program.

It also includes $589,000 for additional Corrections Health staff for mental health counselors at the jail booking area. The goal is to improve coordination of community services for people leaving the jail and to facilitate immediate access to care for those booked during peak hours. Funds are also included to expand clinic hours.

She is proposing dedicating up to 50 positions in the SummerWorks Program specifically for juveniles involved in the criminal justice system.

“It’s vital that the youth we serve have an opportunity to gain important job skills and are empowered to succeed,” she said. Replacing obsolete and seismically unsound buildings and systems

The budget devotes an additional $29.9 million of one-time-only funds for capital projects including:.
  • $18 million for the new Downtown Courthouse.
  • $7 million for the new Health Department Headquarters.             
  • $4.2 million to upgrade the electronics at the Justice Center.    
  • $700,000 to replace the the District Attorney’s CRIMES software.            

The budget also provides additional General Fund spending to cover debt payments of $5.1 million for the Central Courthouse and $3 million for the Health Department Headquarters.                    

Finally, the Chair has set aside $2.7 million to “provide stability for our most vital programs as federal and state funds potentially ramp down NOTICE THERE’S NO CLOSE QUOTE HERE… .

Facing uncertainty        

The proposed budget recognizes that the county’s revenue growth is projected to slow, even as growth in labor costs is projected to accelerate. The county also faces a significant uncertainty in its funding from the State of Oregon, which faces a $1.6 billion funding gap. Funding and policies at the federal level are equally shaky. The Chair is proposing to responding by:

  • Balancing the budget over a three-year period        
  • Contributing $25 million to a Public Employees Retirement System side account to address the county’s unfunded pension obligation liability.
  • Setting aside $2.7 million to ramp down State and Federal programs if needed.
“It’s not clear today what the financial impact will be of the federal and state budgets,” the Chair said, “but it’s clear that we need to plan for cuts.”

The FY 2018 proposed budget does include a number of reductions and reallocations.                                                         

Changes in the Medicaid system and clinic numbers mean the Health Department would cut seven health provider teams and support staff, with the loss of 73 full-time positions.In addition, the Warrant Strike Team in the Sheriff’s Office  would be eliminated, saving $752,809. The county would make administrative and back-office reductions across a number of departments. And, there will be a ramp down and closure of the Londer Learning Center, saving $330,000 in FY 2018 and $660,000 in FY 2019.                                         

Budget Director Mike Jaspin wrote in his message that while the focus of budget discussions tends to naturally fall on the “adds and cuts,” the vast majority of the county’s programs are unchanged from FY 2017, with  more than 5,000 employees continuing to provide services ranging from law enforcement and health care to bridge maintenance and elections management in FY 2018.

Chair Kafoury thanked the Citizen Budget Advisory Committee, her fellow commissioners, District Attorney Rod Underhill, Sheriff Mike Reese and Auditor Steve March for their partnership. She also thanked Jaspin and his team, her office staff, and the county’s department directors.

“Finally, I want to acknowledge the thousands of employees at Multnomah County. For some of you, the financial impact of this budget will be very direct,” she said. “While departments have tried to direct cuts toward vacant positions, that was not always possible. I recognize the sacrifice that this budget is asking many to take. I do not take that lightly.

“I want to thank each of our employees for their dedicated service, their commitment to the cause of improving our community, and their daily contributions. They make people’s lives better, and I believe we all owe them gratitude and respect.”

The county’s budget information for FY 2018, as well as for past years, can be found at www.multco.us/budget.