Board approves investments in mental health, public safety & equity while maintaining homeless services, harm reduction, SUN schools
The Board of Commissioners today approved a nearly $2 billion budget for 2020, maintaining core County programs in homeless services, voter access and SUN schools, while investing in a new mental health outreach center downtown, a new student health center at Reynolds High School and an unprecedented equity initiative.
The Board voted after working for months to balance the community’s needs against a growing structural deficit and revenue uncertainty.
The largest source of money the Board can spend — property taxes — are capped by 1990s ballot measures and don’t reflect the economic growth people see in the 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.
“This budget reflects difficult choices, but there is also a lot to be proud of — programs, strategies and investments that continue to move this organization and our community forward,’’ Chair Deborah Kafoury said.
Major areas of focus include:
Infrastructure, including $11 million for a new mental health resource center downtown at the Bushong Building, $13 million for the new downtown Central Courthouse (in addition to the $80 million spent in the last four years), $6 million for the Southeast Health Center in Southeast Portland and $1 million for electronic medical records for juvenile detention.
Public safety, including sheriff’s deputies for Corbett, Sauvie Island; a jail-based deputy in the Sheriff’s Office’s sex trafficking unit; the Sheriff’s Office’s Homeless Outreach and Program; the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program; and the Sheriff’s Close Street Supervision and Turn Self In programs.
Equity, including $2 million to implement the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan at Multnomah County through creating an independent complaints investigation unit, management training, and new equity and inclusion positions.
The Chair released her proposed budget May 7, and then the Board took public input at four public hearings, alongside meetings, emails and phone calls.
On Thursday, Commissioners approved nearly $1.5 million in amendments including:
$150,000 for the Complete Count Census effort, bringing the total county investment to $250,000. (Commissioner Lori Stegmann)
$125,000 to fund a legal services day to help individuals clear up legal issues that block their path to jobs and housing. (Stegmann)
$250,000 for culturally specific navigation services for immigrant families. (Vega Pederson)
$55,500 to continue the Baby Booster program to support pregnant women and families with young children in southeast Portland. (Vega Pederson)
$100,000 in contingency for Preschool for All. (Vega Pederson)
Reallocation of $150,000 from short-term to long-term rental assistance. (Commissioner Susheela Jayapal)
$203,000 in ongoing spending for the in-jail sex trafficking staff position. (Jayapal)
$30,000 for immigration legal services for domestic violence survivors at Gateway. (Jayapal)
$100,000 for peer-run supported employment program. (Meieran)
$50,000 Fossil Fuel Risk assessment study. (Meieran)
$25,000 for public guardian training and monitoring support. (Meieran)
Sixty-one full-time positions were eliminated in the reductions. But because of vacancies, the actual number of layoffs is expected to be about 12, out of a workforce of nearly 6,000 people.
A county-wide committee is working to help affected employees relocate and fill vacancies as appropriate.
The Board acknowledged the difficulty of balancing the community’s needs with the growing deficit. The budget also sets aside $25 million from the County’s share of a recent Comcast property tax settlement for future public employee pension costs to avoid deeper cuts in the future.
“Compiling and developing Multnomah County's $2 billion budget is a tremendous feat,’’ Commissioner Stegmann said. “I am especially grateful for the continued recognition of the need to make greater investments in east Multnomah County.’’
“This budget prioritizes those who are most vulnerable in our community and focuses on upstream interventions that can head off problems before they metastasize and become more challenging and more expensive to address,’’ said Commissioner Vega Pederson.
“Our ability to move toward equity for our community depends on doing the same within the County, and so I’m particularly supportive and proud of the investment we’re making in our internal equity work,’’ said Commissioner Jayapal. “It’s a significant investment, and it demonstrates the value we place on making the County a workplace where all our employees can thrive, and thereby do their best work to serve the community.’’
“Overall, this budget makes wise investments in healthcare, housing, human services, public safety, and other areas. As a commissioner, these are my priorities, and the budget as a whole carries the work forward,’’ Commissioner Meieran said.
The Chair and Board thanked Budget Director Mike Jaspin, his team at the Multnomah County Budget Office, the Community Budget Advisory Committee volunteers, the Chair’s staff and Chief of Staff, Kim Melton, and community members.
And, Chair Kafoury said, “I’m incredibly grateful for the partnership of the fabulous women on this dais.... Thank you for your support, your shared values and your commitment to this community. I deeply appreciate the way you have listened, asked questions and have engaged deeply to help create the best possible budget document.
“I also want to thank my fellow County employees who, every day, reach and help people in crisis, who, every day, face complex and serious problems with courage and creativity.’’