Multnomah County Board approves ‘transformative’ $3.3 billion FY 2023 budget

June 16, 2022

Chair Deborah Kafoury becomes emotional as she describes staff efforts to put the annual budget into practice.

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners came together today to unanimously approve a $3.32 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2023, funding proven solutions to the community’s most pressing issues, including chronic homelessness, behavioral health needs and violence. The spending plan was built using an equity analysis and advances the County’s commitment to a more just community.

The budget is the eighth approved under Chair Deborah Kafoury, and the largest County budget ever adopted.

“As we move through an uneven and unpredictable COVID-19 recovery, this budget strengthens the safety net, promotes racial justice and boldly builds infrastructure for a better future,” Chair Kafoury said. 

“It reflects our belief that we can come together to solve problems, it promotes solutions to our greatest challenges, and it lifts up opportunities for people across the County to achieve their full potential.”

  • The FY 2023 Budget is $3.32 billion, up 17% from 2022
  • Includes $89.6 million in Multco Direct American Rescue Plan recovery funds
  • Funds more than 5,600 full-time employees
  • Represents historic build out of libraries and preschool from ballot measures 

Chair Deborah Kafoury, board members and staff cheer as the Board approves the $3.3 billion budget.

Homeless Services

The Executive Budget invests a record $183.2 million into a County-wide response to help shelter, house, and add resources to address the behavioral health needs of people experiencing homelessness. This includes $107.1 million from the Metro Supportive Housing Services Measure (SHS), $76.1 million in additional County, state and federal funding, and other investments from the City of Portland. Combined, the Joint Office of Homeless Services will receive $255.5 million in Fiscal Year 2023. Investments include:

  • $130 million (includes $53 million in capital) for shelters and outreach to support over 2,000 beds of year-round adult shelter.
  • $106 million for housing placements, rent assistance, case management and support services.

Behavioral Health Intervention

The budget responds to two significant areas of need in our community, first among people experiencing homelessness and secondly among children. These behavioral health investments include:

  • $15.5 million in new and expanded services to people experiencing homelessness who also have mental health issues. This includes the launch of the Behavioral Health Resource Center in downtown Portland, set for this fall.
  • $1.9 million to expand a successful behavioral health pilot program that provides emergency motel shelter beds and crisis case management. 
  • Expanded case management services and staff through our school-based behavioral health program to serve children in every grade. 

Preventing and Responding to Community Violence

The County made significant investments over the last year in response to the rise in gun violence, including hiring additional prosecutors, expanding the Community Healing Initiative, and adding community health workers to assist with trauma support and safety plans. Funding for these programs was temporary and came largely from the American Rescue Plan. The budget shifts more than $1.5 million of this programming into the general fund to ensure ongoing support beyond Fiscal Year 2023.

Violence is preventable, and as such the budget continues critical work in upstream solutions using all of the community-centered, evidence-based and trauma-informed tools available.

It funds a new Local Public Safety Coordinating Council position to track gun violence prevention efforts across County departments, jurisdictional partners, and community providers. The position will provide leadership and subject matter expertise on the community’s response to gun violence, while also assessing and coordinating violence prevention strategies.

The budget invests in upstream efforts to address the root causes of violence, and promote positive development of all young people in an affirming environment where they can thrive. This includes opportunities for youth facing barriers to employment and a new partnership with a community-based program that engages young Black men in civic education and opens up pathways to paid work experience in public service.

Youth and Families

The Board also approved investments that help families recover from COVID-19 and build resilience, by investing in:

  • Family resource navigators who work alongside the families of SUN students in culturally responsive ways, to help them meet their needs for food, housing, employment, healthcare and more.
  • An expansion in domestic violence response and support programs.
  • Implementing Preschool for All, the voter-approved program that provides free, high-quality, culturally responsive and inclusive preschool, starting with more than 670 children this fall across 48 locations.

The budget also will help ensure the County remains a high-performing and accountable government organization. Investments include new equity staffing within the Department of Community Justice, the District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Community Services, as well as a new Complaints Investigation Unit position, three new positions in Elections, and four new staff auditors in the County Auditor’s Office. 

Climate Change and Community Resilience

Over the last several years, Multnomah County has experienced life-threatening heat waves, bouts of dangerous cold, raging wildfires and toxic air. The Fiscal Year 2023 budget directs resources to help community members who are most at risk of climate-related harms.

These new investments include:

  • A community-driven feasibility assessment on the services and physical infrastructure needed in east County to increase community resilience during climate events and natural disasters.
  • A  program to replace wood stoves with heat pumps, a shift that will improve the health of the people living in those homes, both by providing improved heating and air quality.
  • A pilot program in east County to provide portable air conditioners to 1,000 households who are unable to afford one, who lack the necessary transportation to secure one, or who can’t get help from their landlord to obtain one. The City of Portland is expected to extend the same offer to households in Portland city limits. This program will also provide 8,000 to 10,000 cooling kits to people who have emergency needs during a heat wave. 

Multnomah County Library Improvements

The budget pushes forward the $387 million Multnomah County Library capital bond that voters approved in 2020 to renovate and expand several libraries and build a new flagship library in east County. Construction is set to begin in early FY 2023 on a new Library Operations Center in east Portland.

Final Amendments

The Board also approved amendments to Chair Kafoury’s Executive Budget

Each board member brought proposals forward, for an additional $8.7 million that is covered by additional revenue in the June forecast and carryover funds from the American Rescue Plan. The Board proposed the amendments after six weeks of work sessions and three public hearings where hundreds of people spoke or submitted testimony.

Among the amendments: 

  • Chair Kafoury’s proposal to hold $4.2 million in contingency for future labor costs affected by inflation and economic uncertainty. 

Commissioner Sharon Meieran during the budget approval.

  • Commissioner Sharon Meieran’s proposals to improve alternative shelter coordination, expand culturally responsive healthcare services for LGBTQIA+ community members, improve contracting services in the County, and expand capacity for community-based organizations to aid people in navigating processes so that they are able to obtain federal benefits to which they are entitled.

  • Chair Kafoury’s proposal to increase by 1% percent the cost of living adjustment for community-based contractors

Commissioner Susheela Jayapal during the budget approval.

  • Commissioner Jayapal's amendment to apply a 1% percent wage equity escalator for community based contractors.

  • Commissioner Susheela Jayapal’s proposals for a study on unmet in-home-care needs for older adults exiting homelessness, an economic equity pilot to address poverty and a District Attorney Access program to locate two deputy district attorneys, a victims advocate and a legal assistant in the community. She also proposed one-time-only money for services for sex-trafficked youths.

  • Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson and Commissioner Meieran together promoted $200,000 for reproductive health access.

Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson during the budget approval.

  • In addition to the reproductive health access spending, Commissioner Vega Pederson’s proposed partnering with the City of Portland on vector control in Old Town Chinatown, a small business repair fund in east County, two new outreach and engagement staff positions to help the Joint Office as it sites additional shelters-, a study on public financing for County elections, and the retrofit of a storage building at Inverness Jail to better preserve evidence amid an increase in seized weapons.

  • Commissioner Jayapal and Commissioner Lori Stegmann proposed $250,000 for legal services and expungement efforts for all County residents.

Commissioner Lori Stegmann at a May meeting. She appeared virtually at the Budget Approval due to COVID-19.

  • Commissioner Stegman’s proposed plans to continue work on the Vance Vision development of 90 acres in east County and a transitional housing expansion with a focus on recovery. She also proposed one-time investments to expand the County’s CROPS program and expand a food security program in the Department of County Human Services that provides critical support for families. 

You can find the FY 2023 budget online and read the full remarks by individual board members here.

Quotes from the County Commissioners

Commissioner Lori Stegmann: “Our work here is not about individual wins. It is about servant leadership to the communities we serve. This budget reflects our response to extraordinary circumstances and needs in our community. These issues will not be solved in this year’s budget alone, but we’re setting the foundation for a more stable future. I am grateful for the partnership and leadership of our Board. Because of our Board’s shared values, we are ready to face the challenges ahead.”

Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson: “This budget invests in the most critical challenges facing our community: homelessness, behavioral health and gun violence. It continues to scale up our supportive housing services through additional shelter beds, transitional housing, rental assistance and behavioral health care. It bolsters our data collection and evaluation tools to make sure that we are tracking progress and holding ourselves accountable. It invests in new and proven strategies that reduce violence, and it ramps up Preschool for All, with over 600 students set to enroll this fall. I’m proud of this budget, what values it reflects, and most importantly, what it will do to help our community.”

Commissioner Susheela Jayapal: “This is a budget of opportunity. It lays the foundation for a sustainable recovery by funding new and effective programs, addressing systemic issues, and building capacity at the County and in our partners for continue work towards a more equitable, more just Multnomah County.”

Commissioner Sharon Meieran: “I am privileged to work with this incredible group of women leaders. Throughout the budget process, I pushed for and supported funding for programs that address some of the most urgent crises facing our community: behavioral health, homelessness, public safety and public health. I also sponsored and advocated for programs that improve overall accountability in County contracting and systems improvement. And I supported foundational programs that address root causes of so many of the issues we face in our community. I'm grateful that many of my priorities are reflected in the final budget, and look forward to working with my colleagues, County employees and the community to ensure that our aspirations as reflected in the budget translate into meaningful action.” 

Budget Notes

The Board also approved several budget notes that require action by departments or others to keep the Board informed on the progress or outcomes of investments.

Among the notes: Chair Kafoury detailed a policy process for the implementation of body-worn cameras for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. 

Commissioner Stegmann requested a briefing from the Joint Office of Homeless Services that can provide a comprehensive summary briefing of east County investments.

Commissioner Vega Pederson requested a briefing on recruitment and retention across the County’s workforce, and a review of open vacancies.

Commissioner Vega Pederson also requested an update from the County’s public safety departments on efforts to reduce gun violence.

Commissioner Meieran requested a briefing and update on the Joint Office of Homeless Services’ metrics and outcomes.

Commissioner Susheela Jayapal requested an evaluation and briefing on the Multnomah Access Attorney MAPP pilot program, which will locate District Attorney’s Office resources in two geographic areas by April 2023.

A seventh note, also brought forward by Commissioner Jayapal, asks the Department of County Human Services’ Aging, Disability and Veterans Services Division, with assistance from the Joint Office as needed, to produce a report on how to address in-home care needs for older adults who have experienced homelessness.

After the Board voted, Budget Director Christian Elkin paused the proceedings to thank the Chair for her long service.

“Chair Kafoury, this has been an incredible journey,” Elkin said. “You’ve been a champion of the County’s programs and people, whether you were overseeing significant budget increases or navigating cuts needed to keep the most essential programs going. 

“Even today, with the biggest budget the County has ever seen, the need in our community is still greater than our resources. Yet you’ve worked tirelessly to listen to all of the information, balance competing priorities, dig into the details, and work with the community, departments and the Commissioners to find the most workable solutions.

“It has been an honor to work with you.” 

Chair Deborah Kafoury reacts to Budget Director Christian Elkin who presented her with a budget award for her years of service.

Chair Deborah Kafoury and Budget Director Christian Elkin.