NEWS RELEASE: Chair Jessica Vega Pederson releases $3.96 billion Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2024-2025

April 25, 2024

In the first budget she has led from start to finish, Chair Jessica Vega Pederson today released her Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2025, a $3.96 billion blueprint of County spending, staffing, and services needed to meet critical community needs.

The proposed budget demonstrates the Chair’s commitment to urgently address the interwoven crises on Multnomah County’s streets, with a 24% increase in homelessness spending, a $29 million substance use and recovery package and an $800,000 partnership with the City of Portland to continue successful task forces that have helped reduce retail and auto theft.

The proposed budget also promotes community safety and accountability by fully funding the County’s specialty courts, jails, and adult parole and probation programs. It commits the County to covering daily operations at the peer-led downtown Behavioral Health Resource Center, which houses a day services program, behavioral health shelter and bridge housing program. And it directs a 3.3% cost of living increase to the County’s Health and Human Services contracted service providers in an effort to address workforce barriers and continue increasing basic wages for their critical efforts. 

“My budget addresses some of our greatest community and workforce challenges, but it also draws on our greatest strengths: our employees, our partnerships and our shared efforts to meet these challenges,’’ Chair Vega Pederson said.

The County’s annual budget funds the work of 11 County departments and 5,966 full-time positions as well as the work of public offices led by three independently elected officials: Sheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell, District Attorney Mike Schmidt and Auditor Jennifer McGuirk. It finances operations from July 1, 2024, through June 30, 2025.

As the County’s chief executive officer, the Chair is responsible for proposing the initial County budget with her priorities. As is the County’s long-standing practice, she presents her Executive Budget to the Board so it can be submitted to the Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission in accordance with state law. On Thursday, April 25, the Board passed the resolution to approve the proposed budget for submission to the TSCC in a 3-2 vote. 

“Approval ensures we will meet the legal and technical requirements of Oregon’s budget law and kicks off our budget process. It does not imply or suggest agreement on the part of the Board of the policies proposed and resource allocations,’’ said Christian Elkin, Budget Director.

All Board members agreed to consider a different process for next year’s budget, debating whether to separate the submission of the budget from the vote to “approve” the proposed budget. County practice since 1999 has considered “approval” a technical step, unlike the formal vote to actually “adopt” a budget scheduled in June, after dozens of public hearings and work sessions, and Board amendments.

Commissioners Jesse Beason, Lori Stegmann and Chair Vega Pederson voted to move ahead with the current process, while Commissioners Julia Brim-Edwards and Sharon Meieran voted against, saying they wanted separation to have more time between the actions to review and vote on the proposed budget. Brim-Edwards said she could not approve a budget she had received the day before the budget was presented. You can watch the Board discussion here.

The Chair’s release kicks off six weeks of work sessions and public discussion, including three public hearings in May with virtual and in-person options to testify. The Board is scheduled to meet 23 times on the budget in coming weeks and will vote to adopt a final budget Thursday, June 6, 2024.

“The most important part of this process is ahead of us, when the Board and the public will have six weeks to discuss, debate and help decide our priorities,’’ said Chair Vega Pederson. “I am excited to get started.”

General Fund

Most of the County’s nearly $4 billion budget comes from funding sources that must be used for specific purposes, including Preschool for All, Supportive Housing Services, road funds and state/federal funds.

The Chair’s Executive Budget largely lays out her plan for how the County should spend its $886 million General Fund — the largest pool of discretionary funds that the Board of County Commissioners can allocate. Resources for the General Fund come from property taxes, the business income tax, motor vehicle rental taxes, interest earnings, state-shared revenues, and other streams, including opioid settlement funds. 

Chair Vega Pederson started the budget process with a $14 million deficit due to inflation and fluctuating property values, uncertainty around future costs of the Behavioral Health Resource Center, and a gap in state public safety funding. To address this deficit, the Chair directed departments to reduce their current service level budgets by 3%. 

“This budget represents hard choices and tough trade offs so we can accomplish our most critical priorities,’’ Chair Vega Pederson said. “We must put into action the plans we have to combat homelessness, address the fentanyl crisis, strengthen our behavioral health continuum of care, enact the changes voters approved for our elections and increase safety and equity in our community.”

Strengthening Homeless Services

Helping people leave the streets and move indoors, where they can receive housing navigation, case management and health services, tops the Chair’s budget priorities. She proposes a 24% increase in homeless services, across all funding sources, directing a total of $285 million to housing placements, rent assistance and support services for people experiencing homelessness.

The budget supports the new Homeless Response Action Plan, a strategic reset of the community’s response to homelessness announced by Chair Vega Pederson and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler in March.

The plan calls for local governments, state departments, service providers and healthcare organizations to work together to shelter or house an additional 2,700 people by Dec. 31, 2025. It builds from a Portland/Gresham/Multnomah County Community Sheltering Strategy that calls for adding 1,000 shelter beds in two years, and it proposes adding hundreds more behavioral health beds. The plan has new metrics and focuses on priority populations who are disproportionately affected by homelessness, including people of color, and people who are LGBTQIA2S+.

The Chair’s budget directs funds toward those achieving goals, including $12 million to help improve access to existing shelter beds by moving people from shelter beds into housing and nearly $4 million to increase shelter beds during weather emergencies.

The Executive Budget also directs $127 million in Supportive Housing Services dollars toward work that includes supporting population-specific and trauma-informed shelters and alternative shelters.

It includes direct support for East County communities, complementing an ongoing expansion of services east of Portland: $600,000 for outreach case management and housing placement within the City of Gresham and an additional $300,000 for outreach and rent assistance in the cities of Fairview, Wood Village and Troutdale.

“As a baseline, we are not letting a single shelter bed close, and we are ensuring a strong, geographically diverse shelter system,’’ the Chair said.

The Chair is also directing Supportive Housing Services money not only to the Joint Office of Homeless Services but also to the Department of County Human Services’ Aging, Disabilities and Veterans Services Division, the Health Department, and the Department of Community Justice as part of a “One County” approach. 

Responding to fentanyl and pathways to treatment

Building on the Health Department’s 2024 Overdose Prevention and Response Plan, the budget maintains $5.5 million in harm reduction programs and invests an additional $2.1 million in public health approaches to address the surge in fentanyl overdoses and deaths. This includes $800,000 to add a full harm reduction team in the Health Department, $438,000 for youth prevention services, and $425,000 for more Naloxone coordination, distribution and training.

The budget combines investments from the State of Oregon, the City of Portland and the County General Fund into a $29 million deflection and recovery package. Deflection is the intervention that can be offered before an arrest or as a pathway for someone to receive treatment and services instead of going to jail. The investments would include funds to operate a 24/7 drop-off sobering center — currently under development — as well as deflection.

Safeguarding elections

This year, the city of Portland is moving to ranked choice voting utilizing a single transferable vote process, a process in which voters rank candidates by their preference on their ballots. 

The budget includes $894,000in one-time only and ongoing funds for the Elections Division to conduct voter education, outreach and supervision of this new process, as well as $180,000 in one-time-only funds to provide necessary additional resources for the Elections Division to conduct the November 2024 general election.

Public campaign finance

The Chair’s Executive budget includes $1 million in ongoing funds to explore establishing a partnership between Multnomah County and the City of Portland’s Small Donors Elections Program to create a small donor matching program for candidates seeking Multnomah County’s elected offices ahead of the November 2026 general election. 

Learn more

Virtual and in-person public hearings will be held May 8, May 15 and May 29. Find a message from Budget Director Christian Elkin, departments’ budget submissions and historic County budgets here.