Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury Thursday released her executive budget for the 2021 fiscal year which includes a 2% cut to every county department and a wage freeze for management and exempt employees.
The $1.98 billion budget has been revised four times due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Kafoury said.
“Over the past two months, our projected deficit increased by $37.5 million, from $7 million to $45.3 million,” Kafoury said in a statement.
Kafoury said that deficit and revenue loss, partnered with the need to “stand fast” on core services during the pandemic, has opened a $58 million hole in the county’s general fund.
“The core goal of the executive budget remains intact: to ensure the health, safety and resilience of our community members and of the organization through smart, equitable investments of the county’s resources,” Kafoury said.
The budget allocates $33 million to the Joint Office of Homeless Services.
“The importance of having a safe, stable place to live has never been more clear,” Kafoury said. “COVID-19 has reinforced that having a home, a place to sleep, is a key component to health.”
The budget also includes funding to county jails at the current level, the addition of some public health and emergency management staff, and allots $450,000 to Multnomah County Elections for “increased ballot processing capacity, critically urgent technology upgrades and enhanced security for ballot drop sites.”
Along with the 2% budget cut and wage freeze, Kafoury said her budget “would tap one-time-only reserves and new revenue from the business income tax.”
Kafoury said she also accepted reductions proposed by department leaders and has eliminated some vacant positions.
“As the local public health authority, we’re leading our region through this pandemic,” Kafoury said. “And as the largest safety net provider, we’re responding to an unrivaled demand for services. The budget implications of being both are unprecedented.”
Kafoury said the county has increased its number of public health nurses and epidemiologists and expects to hire “dozens more contact tracers” to track the spread of coronavirus.
The Emergency Operations Center and Joint Office of Homeless Services has also worked to spread shelter beds into extension shelters to maintain social distancing as well as to create 120 new beds.
Kafoury said so far the county has not undertaken any furloughs or layoffs. Next Tuesday, May 12, the County is releasing its next general fund forecast, which is expected to include additional revenue declines, according to Kafoury.
She said the county is anticipating that it does not have the money to cover the “more than $75 million we anticipate it will take to meet our contact tracing threshold for reopening, continue our emergency public health and community response and protective actions we’re taking at congregate settings.”
Last month, the county received $28 million from the federal CARES Act, $8 million of which is being spent this year and the remaining $20 million for the next fiscal year, Kafoury said.
She said the county has also identified $5 million in state and federal funding and will continue working with the city of Portland, other regional partners and the state to find more.
The Board of County Commissioners will vote to approve a final budget June 11.