June 17: A County budget that meets the moment and moves us closer to transformation

Dear friends and neighbors,

Multnomah County’s FY 2023 budget that was adopted yesterday morning was my 13th as a member of the Board of County Commissioners, my eighth as County Chair, and my very last.

While the budgeting process always relies on an immense amount of technical thinking and expertise, it is fundamentally so much more than a technical exercise.

At Multnomah County, building the budget — whether in times of scarcity or prosperity, in the middle of a crisis or during a period of recovery — is an exercise in finding and funding ways to bring to life the values and priorities of our organization, and those of the communities we serve. It’s an exercise in taking clear stock of the challenges we’re facing, identifying the opportunities we have, and making good on our commitment to listen to and partner with our community.

And ultimately, the work of crafting and passing a budget allows us to set a roadmap for the County to play a leading and meaningful part in building a community that is stronger, more just and more equitable.

The trials of the last two-plus years have stretched our community, exposed and exploited pre-existing disparities and changed the ways we go about our daily lives — all while we have been inundated by waves of grief and loss. 

Yet, as the destabilizing effects of the pandemic and other crises opened up so many areas of need, Multnomah County has urgently, and often courageously, stepped up and into those spaces. And throughout, we have strived to respond effectively, efficiently and equitably.

From the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the County has led the public health response for our community. We’ve leaned even further into our role as a safety net, offering unprecedented amounts of rent assistance, expanding the reach and breadth of our wraparound services, and increasing our work to prevent and interrupt violence. We also preserved our shelter capacity during the most harrowing days of COVID-19, and have made great strides in both growing our shelter system and getting more people into homes, faster. 

Recognizing that the magnitude and uneven spread of these needs are driven by racial disparities, we’ve continued to take steps to dismantle systemic racism and build up equity in our community, and in our own organization.

At just over $3.3 billion, Multnomah County’s 2023 budget is by far the largest that the Board of County Commissioners has ever adopted. And while the dollar figure is notable, the significance and the promise of this budget are grounded in the thoughtfulness, thoroughness, strategy and system-thinking that went into its creation.

This budget maintains those core safety net services that have been so vital for the stability and well-being of our community, while also expanding effective strategies so that we can continue to meet emerging and increasing needs. 

At the same time, the budget is also built to look beyond the challenges in front of us so that we can continue taking meaningful steps toward becoming the kind of community every resident deserves: a community that’s more equitable, more just, and where everyone can find healing and opportunities to thrive.

We've invested in critical areas that often overlap and are coordinated across the County: homeless and housing services, behavioral health, community violence and the criminal legal system, services for youth and families, public health, community assets resilience, and climate and sustainability. And I am particularly heartened by our commitment to advancing equity through the ways our programs and services are designed, and the budget decisions we make.

You can find the highlights of the adopted 2023 budget in Multnomah County’s news story.

This budget was built on the profound experiences we’ve come through together over the last several years: the collective adversity; the resourcefulness, innovation and creativity we’ve responded with; and the resilience that we’ve built and tapped into to endure it all.

But it also reflects an abiding belief in the powerful, critical part that Multnomah County must — and will — continue to play in transforming our community.

In that spirit, I am confident that this 2023 budget equips us to respond to the needs that we’ll face long past the pandemic, and also reveals the many ways that Multnomah County will help our community rise above them.

Looking back, I realize that the budgeting process, as laborious and painstaking as it can be, contains within it so many of the reasons that I chose to follow the path of public service. And while the County’s defining role will outlast me — and any single person who holds the office of the Chair — I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have contributed to propelling the work of Multnomah County forward.

Please stay safe and stay healthy,

Deborah Kafoury
Multnomah County Chair

Join a Multnomah County Community Budget Advisory Committee

Are you interested in learning about county programs, budgets and priorities?

The Office of Community Involvement is now accepting applications for new Community Budget Advisory Committee (CBAC) members. CBACs are groups of community members that review and make recommendations on county departmental budgets and operations, and are one of the key ways the county receives community input on its budget priorities. 

No budgeting or financial expertise is necessary! Just an interest in the programs and budget process of the County and availability to attend meetings.

To apply and for more information, visit multco.us/oci/cbacs.

Applications received by 11:59pm on Thursday, July 7, will be reviewed first. Following the deadline, applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis as needed.

Nominate a Community Service Hero for the Gladys McCoy Lifetime Achievement Award

The Gladys McCoy Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 1994 to honor Multnomah County individuals who have made outstanding contributions to our community.

Gladys McCoy was Chair of the Multnomah County Board of County Commissioners from 1987 until her death in April 1993, and became the first person of color elected to public office in Oregon when she was elected to the Portland Public Schools Board in 1970.

The award is given to an individual who has exemplified the life of the late Multnomah County Chair Gladys McCoy by making major contributions to civil and human rights, racial justice, children and youth, family issues, local politics and government, environmental issues, and/or education.

Help us find our 2022 recipient and nominate your community service hero today! Submit your nomination here.

The deadline for nominations is Thursday, June 30, at 5 p.m.