Multnomah County’s Proposed Budget

By Marshall Hammond

Concerns over homelessness, crime and behavioral health are at the forefront of Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson’s proposed annual budget for fiscal year (FY) 2024. The $3.5 billion budget was made public on Thursday, April 27 and “focuses on urgent issues around homelessness, animal services, behavioral health and public safety” according to a county press release. In broader terms, Pederson says the budget is designed to push Multnomah County towards a post-COVID-19 economic recovery. 

Among the budget proposals are increased funding to the Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office, Health Department and Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS).

Although this year’s proposed budget is a 5.4 percent increase over last year’s adopted budget, the increases were limited by spending constraints. This fiscal year the county is facing a $2.6 million deficit that is expected to rise to $10.8 million by FY 2028. 

Multiple factors have contributed to the deficit. The county has lost tax revenue as businesses have left the area, often citing theft, vandalism and safety concerns. The county is also seeing a decrease in fees charged for real estate transactions and an increase in delinquent property taxes due to rising levels of inflation. 

And now that the federal government has declared an end to the pandemic state of emergency, funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and other sources are drying up, including a loss of $113 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding. 

Pedersen wants to continue some programs that have run out of federal funding with “mostly one-time-only funds to continue critical safety net programs that support housing stability, behavioral healthcare and culturally specific wraparound services.” This includes $17 million for shelter beds that were opened during the pandemic.

One of the largest items on Pederson’s budget is $280 million in funding for the JOHS to pay for “housing placements, rent assistance and support and support an ongoing expansion of congregate, alternative and motel-based shelters and street outreach work.” Much of that funding comes from the Metro Supportive Housing Services Measure 26-210 that voters passed in 2020. The measure allowed for increased funding for homeless services by imposing a one percent income tax on higher income individuals, households and businesses. However, in 2023 $42 million of the funds allotted went unspent “due to the endemic staffing crisis among its providers,” according to county officials.

Pederson has called the underspending unacceptable and pledged to make changes to correct the issue, as have city officials. A new Director of the JOHS, Dan Field, started his position there on Friday, April 28.

Pederson’s budget contains funds for the JOHS to create a Multi-Agency Coordinating (MAC) group that will combine county, city, state and “other emergency management and regional jurisdictional partners” to increase the number of facilities, beds and workers available to the homeless population.

The proposed budget also allots $10 million for a new initiative called Housing Multnomah Now,  a “12-month plan to unify local and state efforts to bring urgency and coordination toward reducing unsheltered homelessness starting in Portland’s central city.” The combined city, county and state funds for the initiative will total $32 million. 

In addition to providing funding for homeless services and outreach, the budget aims to reduce crime with increased funding for behavioral health programs and for the Sheriff and District Attorney’s offices. 

Among measures to address the mental health and drug addiction crisis, the county’s proposed budget will increase funding to the recently constructed Behavioral Health Resource Center by $2.5 million. The downtown center is expected to add 33 shelter beds and 19 bridge housing beds this spring. 

The county will also invest $2 million into the Behavioral Health Emergency Coordination Network, a “multi-jurisdictional and cross-agency collaboration that is developing an improved triage and assessment network for people experiencing behavioral health crises.” 

And to deal with the “influx of youth and adults in custody with high behavioral health needs” the budget has allocated $1.2 million to Corrections Health, a department within the Health Department that provides health services to people incarcerated in Multnomah County Jails and Juvenile Detention Centers. 

The budget proposes $49.6 million in funding for the District Attorney’s Office, a $4.8 million increase from the previous year. $750,000 of that amount is to be allocated to fund two full-time investigators and two full-time prosecutors to reduce a backlog of gun violence cases. Previously that money was coming from ARP funding. 

Pederson’s budget also allocates funding for the creation of an Auto and Retail Theft Unit in the DA’s office, focusing on crimes which have been a particular source of pain for the county’s residents and businesses over the last few years. 

The Board of Commissioners will vote on the budget Thursday, June 8, 9:30 am during a regular meeting of the Commissioners. Details on watching/listening to the meeting at bit.ly/June8Mtg.

6/8/23 Update: The Board of Commissioners approved the budget. All of the details can be found here.

Multnomah County’s Proposed Budget

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top