What to cut? Multnomah County wants your help

Multnomah County

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury is calling for a 2% cut from every department

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Multnomah County leaders are asking for the community’s help as they make tough decisions to balance a budget impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Like every other city and county in Oregon, Multnomah County is facing a massive budget shortfall and now must decide which programs and services should be on the chopping block. 

County revenues have taken a downturn due, in part, to the stay-home order keeping people from traveling and going to work. The majority of county funding comes from property taxes, which are relatively stable. But the tax on car rentals has seriously declined along with money from the business income tax as businesses face more meager profits. 

To make up for a painful $58 million shortfall in part from those declining services, 

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury is calling for a 2% cut from every department to make up for a painful $58 million shortfall caused, in part, by those declining services. She’s also requesting wage freezes for management and exempt employees in the executive budget. 

Certain programs are expected to be cut, including the Assessment and Treatment for Youth and Families program which helps kids with behavioral or substance abuse problems. Eliminating the program would save about $964,000. 

“We’ve tried to make cuts in areas where they are not going to impact community,” Kafoury said. 

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The county chair said those changes may have been enough to close the $58 million gap but the shortfall is worse than what they originally thought. The county crunched the numbers again after COVID-19 really hit and discovered an additional $75 million shortfall for the 2021 budget year starting July 1. The gap, Kafoury says, was widened by extra pandemic spending such as hiring additional staff for contact tracing, nurses, social distancing shelters and hotel rooms and other services. 

“To do the contract tracing, the testing; all things that are necessary to allow our community to reopen,” Kafoury said. 

Kafoury said the county now wants to hear feedback from the community before they dive into a round of serious cuts. 

“We are gong to be looking at the community to help us make these decisions,” she said. 

Multnomah County will hold public hearings on May 20 and 27. Community members can also email Chair Kafoury directly at mult.chair@multco.us. The Board of County Commissioners will vote on the budget on June 11. 

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