The Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 today to approve a new budget to maintain current Multnomah County services and staff for the next year beginning July 1. The Fiscal Year 2024 budget increases funding for housing and homeless services, behavioral health, community safety, early learning opportunities, elections and more.
The Board primarily decided where to spend $872 million in General Fund dollars, up 9% over 2023. The Board also voted on where to direct $22.74 million in the County’s last allocation of federal American Rescue Plan dollars.
The budget was developed during a leadership transition to Chair Vega Pederson, who took office in January. It takes on the profound challenges she has faced across several critical areas, including spending of the Metro Supportive Housing Services Measure (SHS) dollars, increased investments in, and accountability for, the Joint Office of Homeless Services and Multnomah County Animal Services, and support for operating the Behavioral Health Resource Center in downtown Portland.
“This is a challenging, pivotal moment for our county. We’re facing difficult, troubling times and my focus has been to make sure this budget effectively addresses the issues we face head on,” Chair Vega Pederson said. “Our services are a lifeline for people, especially as the American Rescue Plan funds end. Throughout this process, I have been resolved to making the tough decisions we need to to protect our safety net while also continuing to make the upstream investments that make our safety net most effective in helping people in Multnomah County thrive.”
The County’s total budget, including state and federal funding that passes through the County, is $3.6 billion. But because the total budget also includes internal charges, transfers, loans, and accounting, that figure overstates what the County will actually spend. The net budget of $2.8 billion most accurately reflects what the County needs to operate.
Highlights of this year’s budget decisions include:
$280 million in a system-wide response to homelessness. This includes $74 million in shelter operations and street outreach; $61.5 million in rental assistance and housing case management); $60 million on permanent supportive housing and recovery-oriented transitional housing; and $32 million in work that includes data quality support, outcomes reporting, services coordination and navigation, and community engagement.
$117 million in the Behavioral Health Division, including $2.5 million to continue operations at the Behavioral Health Resource Center, $1.2 million in continued funding for culturally specific, peer-led counseling for youth and families affected by gun violence and $1.1 million in continued funding for the Old Town In-reach Program, providing behavioral health services to support day spaces and programs serving people experiencing homelessness.
$51 million to fund the first 30% of the design phase for the Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge Project, which will replace the Burnside Bridge with one that can withstand a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, $9 million to strengthen some of the concrete columns and beams that support the Morrison Bridge as as well as replace the four 66-year-old motors that open and close the bridge and $22 million to replace the Broadway Bridge deck.
$13.6 million for Animal Services, including adding nine full-time employees to help meet staffing levels that ensure the shelter will regularly meet all national standards for the care of animals.
$914,000 to the Elections Division, a 22% increase to support Elections operations, provide voter registration services year-round; support Multnomah County’s campaign finance and disclosure program; provide voter education and outreach, with a focus on removing barriers for people in underrepresented communities and implement voter-approved Ranked Choice Voting.
$87.3 million for the operating budget for Preschool for All, which in its second year, doubles the numbers of slots to 1,400 and includes $17 million dollars of capital for the Preschool for All facilities fund to help build infrastructure to reach access for all families who want preschool by 2030.
The Board of Commissioners, building on Chair Vega Pederson’s Executive Budget released in March, added $3.3 million of General Fund and $4.4 million of American Rescue Plan funding (total $7.77 million) to specifically fund human services and community safety. The Board’s amendments include:
- $900,000 for additional micro villages to shelter people experiencing homelessness.
- $300,000 for a Common Application for residents seeking County services, improving County processes by providing County resources more quickly and at a lower cost.
- $250,000 for Resilience Hub development to build infrastructure that supports communities during a disaster.
- $45,000 for youth violence prevention programming for recreational activities for our youth with pro-social activities for them.
- Full staffing for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office River Patrol
- $115,000 for the East County Repair Grant Program to support local small businesses that need immediate repairs as a result of physical damage resulting from vandalism.
- $70,000 for the Compass Project, a pilot that will clear warrants and further expand access to services including expungement services, fines and fee reduction/forgiveness, warrant removal, victim services, legal education, health Insurance access, and mental health service navigation.
- $250,000 for the Center for Tribal Nations to address past and contemporary injustices.
- $150,000 for additional services for youth experiencing a mental health crisis.
The 2024 budget includes the spending plans for the independently elected Multnomah County Sheriff Nicole Morrissey O’Donnell, District Attorney Mike Schmidt and Auditor Jennifer McGuirk.
The Board votes on their budgets as parts of the County’s overall budget, but it does not directly oversee or lead the work of those elected officials.
- The Sheriff’s Office budget is $194 million, a $14 million (7.7%) increase from the FY 2023 budget that maintains staffing and jail capacity. The General Fund spending increased by $15 million (9.5%) while there was a $1.9 million (-21.7%) decrease in State Community Corrections Senate Bill 1145 (SB 1145) funding that was reduced in the Governor’s budget.
- The $50.3 million for the District Attorney is a $5.4 million increase from the FY 2023 budget. This includes $942,073 of new General Fund dollars, both ongoing and one-time-only, to address increased domestic violence and gun violence cases, continuing activities previously funded by the American Rescue Plan including an additional gun violence-related Deputy District Attorney and investigator, and two Deputy District Attorneys focused on domestic violence cases. It also includes $800,996 of new General Fund dollars to fund two Deputy District Attorneys, two Investigators, and a Legal Assistant to lead two new task forces focused on tackling organized retail theft and auto theft.
- The $3 million Auditor’s budget includes $258,000 in new funding for services, supplies and training for a new ombudsperson, a position approved by 85% of voters.
The Board also recessed and reconvened as the Multnomah County Library District Board, approving a $180.7 million budget appropriation that maintains services at 19 libraries across the County, with 547 full-time employees, as well as continued work on a $347 million effort to modernize and expand the library system. The Library’s budget includes nearly $640,000 in new investments in security reporting, a Vietnamese translation editor and data equity evaluation, among others.
The Board also reflected on the many issues County residents face and the efforts to address those through today’s vote. Commissioner Lori Stegmann, representing East Multnomah County, said: while each one of us commissioners have certain priorities in the budget that we have championed, it was really our collective agreement of priorities that produced a balanced budget that addresses our deficiencies, maintains our mission, and propels us into the future with financial stability and a clear course of action.
And as I wind down my tenure on the board and consider the legacy my team and I hope to leave behind, I am so pleased that we have been able to lay the groundwork for policies that will have a profound impact on the future of our community members and our county.”
Commissioner Diane Rosenbaum, who represents East and Southeast Portland, said "My three key priorities in this budget process included support of evidence-based investments that effectively lift up children and families, addressing the root causes of poverty; passing a budget that would have positive impacts for people in District 3; and ensuring investments in Animal Services to improve animal care and create a better environment for staff and volunteers. I believe this budget succeeds in each of these areas."
District 2 Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, who represents North and Northeast Portland. acknowledged that after three pandemic budgets, “we have another challenging year ahead.
“The stressors placed on our community during the pandemic have exacerbated the overlapping crises of homelessness, mental health, and substance use. We need improvement in these systems at every level of government, including the County,’’ said Commissioner Jayapal. “It’s also clear that we have critical work to do on aspects of County operations, particularly our relationship with nonprofit service contractors. Accountability is a two-way street: together with our partners, we need to fund adequate wages and cost structures, streamline contracting practices, agree on realistic outcomes, and then hold each other accountable for all of those things. I look forward to doing this work.”
District 1 Commissioner Sharon Meieran, who represents west and southwest Portland, "I am proud of all the budget amendments that I brought forward, especially those that will fund critical services for our most vulnerable community members such as an expanded network of community-led micro villages that will house people experiencing homelessness across the County.
While there are programs and services within our budget that will do some good, I voted no because I continue to struggle with our budgeting process and could not in good conscience support it this year. I know that addressing the shortcomings of the budget process are a priority for this board and I appreciate the many hours of work County staff have put into crafting this budget, for the hundreds of community members who have given their input, and for the many community organizations that have been involved as well."
Chair Vega Pederson closed the proceedings by thanking staff, departments and the Board, in addition to the residents of Multnomah County.
“A budget is a reflection of priorities, and in this budget we are addressing both the immediate crises before us - like homelessness, behavioral health, and gun violence,” said Chair Vega Pederson. “But we are also making upstream investments - in areas like Preschool for All and our youth services - which will pay dividends in the years to come.”