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Clackamas County wraps up its budget

Clackamas County’s budget for the next year will include a commitment to open 26 more beds at the county jail and $1.3 million more for items in addition to the base budget.

The 2016-17 spending plan won approval June 7 after five full days of deliberation by the county budget committee, which consists of the five elected commissioners and five appointed public members.

The added $1.3 million is a fraction of an all-funds county budget that is near the $1 billion mark. However, more than $250 million of that total goes to special-purpose districts overseen by the county and is not available for general spending. Other county funds, such as for road maintenance, are earmarked.

The $1.3 million in added spending will be drawn from the county contingency fund. It is slightly more than the $1.1 million originally proposed by County Administrator Don Krupp from that fund for some “critical needs.”

Some of the spending items matched those recommended by Krupp for internal management, and some were different.

Krupp said the budget is balanced.

“At the same time, we managed to figure out how to do a few more good things,” he said.

Unlike last year, however, this budget adds only a handful of new positions — the county government workforce is around 2,000 — and includes few new initiatives.

The original wish list consisted of almost 40 proposals adding up to $5.5 million. Departments withdrew many of them after it became apparent that unlike last year, there was no extra money to pay for them.

“The best thing you can say is that they were all good and are unmet needs, and every one of them ought to be given due consideration,” Krupp said. “But we cannot afford to fund all of them. The best we can do is to do the best we can with the resources we’ve got.”

The budget, including the amounts for the special-purpose districts, goes to county commissioners for final approval June 29 — two days before the start of the new budget year July 1.

The permanent tax rate for Clackamas County is $2.40 per $1,000 of taxable property value within cities, and $2.98 per $1,000 outside cities.

Public safety

The committee agreed Tuesday to incorporate an additional $1 million sought by Sheriff Craig Roberts for deputies to open 14 beds for female inmates and 12 beds designated for medical cases, which can accommodate inmates with severe mental illnesses. The medical unit was completed in 2011 but never opened.

However, the funding will be made part of a five-year budget plan for the sheriff’s office, which will seek renewal of a local-option tax levy on the Nov. 8 ballot. The current rate is about 25 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value, and proceeds pay for 59 patrol and jail deputies and investigators.

Advocates have discussed a slight increase in that rate to cover rising costs, including the six new jail deputies.

The commissioners have not yet acted on the tax measure, which actually would take effect in mid-2017.

The property tax-dependent general fund supports 72 percent of the sheriff’s operating fund, which pays for 387 other positions in the agency.

The jail in Oregon City now operates 465 beds, and sheriff’s officials say that having additional beds will enable them to reduce the number of forced releases, which occur when the jail is at capacity.

As one of the $1.3 million in add-on items, the budget also provides $159,000 for a sergeant to join the Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team, which already employs a deputy and a victims’ advocate. During 2015 the team responded in 308 cases with partner agencies, and its goal is to have no homicides related to domestic violence in the county by 2020.

Another add-on item will provide $300,000 in one-time seed money for a shelter for military veterans who are homeless. How that money will be spent has yet to be determined.

Sheriff Roberts, in an interview afterward, said all of those actions would help contribute to a safer county.

“It really says a lot that the budget committee and the board (of commissioners) are supportive of public safety issues and recognize that they are a priority,” he said.

“We strive to be honest and transparent about how those dollars are being used. What I am thrilled about is all the wrap-around services that have come together. Providing all those services is how we are going to reduce recidivism (repeat crime).”

Other items

The 10 budget committee members used stick-on dots to indicate their priorities among 23 “policy proposals” for added spending. In addition to money for the two add-on items above, here are others that made the list:

• An additional deputy district attorney for a growing caseload at the Family Justice Center, $81,250; savings carried over in the district attorney’s budget will make up the other $50,000.

• Assistance within the Health, Housing and Human Services Department to match people with jobs, $231,000.

• A manager to enable the county to keep tabs on grants, $150,000.

• Positions to enable the county to implement its management-for-results plan known as Performance Clackamas, $204,000.

• A human resources systems analyst, $112,000.

• Additional funds for the Clackamas River Enforcement and Ecology Workgroup, which enforces the no-alcohol policy in county parks and educates the public about keeping the parks clean, $40,000.

The budget committee also agreed with Krupp’s recommendation to transfer $700,000 from the county’s general fund reserve to a reserve for public-pension costs. Contributions from government employers to the public pension fund are likely to increase by 20 percent or more in the next two-year cycle, starting in mid-2017, as a result of an Oregon Supreme Court decision in 2015.

If more money comes in than projected, among the priorities are replenishing $2 million shifted from the reserve and contingency funds, additional positions to implement Performance Clackamas, and county support for a program to avert homelessness.

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