Multnomah County Chair Kafoury releases 2020 Budget

April 25, 2019

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury at the April 25 board meeting

This story was updated May 7, 2019 to include the District Attorney's budget.

Chair Deborah Kafoury presented her 2020 Budget to the Board of County Commissioners today, revealing her head-on strategy in the face of a growing structural deficit and revenue uncertainty.

The $2 billion annual budget makes calculated investments in mental health, public safety and equity, while maintaining the County’s commitment to homeless services, jail beds and SUN schools.

The Chair’s budget also maintains funding for voter access improvements in the Elections Division and retains the sheriff’s deputies who serve Corbett and Sauvie Island.

New investments include:

  • $11 million for a new mental health resource center in downtown Portland.

  • A new student health center at Reynolds High School.

  • $250,000 for the District Attorney’s costs related to the Gresham Police Department’s body-worn cameras.

  • $200,000 to expand the County’s existing compliance and enforcement efforts to prevent wage theft on County construction sites.

  • $160,000 to improve contracting practices with nonprofits.

  • $100,000 to support outreach for the 2020 Census.

  • $100,000 to support the next phase of the Preschool for All efforts.

  • $50,000 to build awareness and staff training around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

The proposed budget funds the $2 million implementation of the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan, the most focused effort in County history to address workforce discrimination and disparities, including creation of an independent complaints investigation unit, management training, and new equity and inclusion positions.

“These choices are fiscally prudent, support our policies, leverage our regional partnerships, and build on the strengths of our nearly 6,000 County employees and more than 650 community partners,” Chair Kafoury said.

At the County, the largest source of money the Board can spend — property taxes — are capped by 1990s ballot measures and don’t reflect the growth people see in their community. The result is that the cost of providing services is outpacing the County’s income. That gap is forecast to grow to $35 million in the next five years.

With that economic picture in mind, Chair Kafoury’s budget makes new investments in programs and services in response to current needs, all while maintaining core services and ensuring we have the workforce and infrastructure capable of delivering those services in the future.

The Chair provides ongoing funding for several efforts including:

  • The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, to continue providing a way to divert low-level drug offenders from jail and toward opportunities for treatment and housing.

  • The Sheriff’s Office’s Close Street Supervision program, to provide effective monitoring and oversight of people awaiting trial.

  • The Sheriff’s Turn Self In Program, providing formal weekend sentencing alternatives for offenders, thus allowing them to maintain jobs and other obligations.

The Chair devotes an additional $21.6 million of General Fund resources to the County’s infrastructure. In addition to the new mental health resource center downtown, this includes $12 million for the new downtown Central Courthouse (in addition to the $80 million spent in the last four years) and $6 million for the Southeast Health Center in Southeast Portland and $1 million for electronic medical records for juvenile detention.

The Chair funds the Nurse Family Partnership program with $1 million, holding the program to current capacity levels, but eliminating two vacancies.

The Chair asked all departments to take a 3 percent constraint. Reductions taken include:

  • Shifting $303,682 in ongoing funding to one-time-only funding for a reception center while the Runaway Youth program is redesigned.

  • Eliminating eight underused juvenile detention beds, saving $525,000.

  • Eliminating the Department of Community Justice’s forensic lab, saving $308,000.

  • Reducing staff in the Sheriff’s Facility Security Unit and Civil Process program, saving $212,572 and $342,000 respectively.

The budget also seeks full funding for the County’s General Fund contingency and Business Income Tax reserves, and it dedicates $25 million to a fourth public employee pension side account next year to address the County’s future costs.

The Chair said, because of the finance team’s excellent management, the County holds the highest possible bond rating from S & P Global Ratings and Moody’s.

The County also received the “best audit you can get” from our external auditor, Moss Adams. And, the County earned an Excellence in Financial Reporting award from the Government Finance Officers’ Association for the 34th straight year.

Maintaining that fiscal discipline will allow the County to continue to serve the community, she said.

“There is tremendous need in our community, and the development of this budget has involved difficult choices. But we are able to fund many excellent efforts thanks to our wise fiscal stewardship, she said.

Chair Deborah Kafoury’s executive budget funds the Multnomah County DA’s Office at virtually the same service level as last year. The FY 2019 General Fund allocation was $25.7 million. The FY 2020 General Fund allocation is $28.4 million. This represents a net increase of the County General Fund of $2.7 million. But there is a net decrease in state and federal funding of $2 million.

The DA proposed cutting $828,000 as part of the 3 percent constraint budget exercise. But working with Chair Kafoury, together, they added back  $1,028,513 The DA’s Office is experiencing a significant increase in labor costs. Labor costs rose 9 percent because the new labor contract has a 3.9 percent cost of living increase, in addition to PERS and the labor contract with the prosecuting attorneys.

The Board now begins five weeks of work sessions and public hearings before it’s scheduled to adopt the budget on May 30, 2019.

“I want to thank each of our employees for their dedicated service, their commitment to improving our community, and their daily contributions,” the Chair said at the Thursday Board meeting. “I prepared this budget to support your work.”

You can read more about the Multnomah County budget process.

Budget hearings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on:

  • April 29, 2019, with the Communities of Color at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) gym, 10301 NE Glisan St. in Portland.

  • May 8, 2019, Multnomah Building Boardroom, 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd. in Portland.

  • May 14, 2019, East County Building, Sharron Kelly Room, 600 NE 8th St. in Gresham.

  • May 22, 2019, Roosevelt High School, 6941 N Central St., Portland.