Clackamas budget one step away from approval
A $1 billion budget for Clackamas County and associated agencies for the coming year is one step away from final approval.
The budget advances to a vote of the county commissioners on June 29. It includes money for seven special districts that are legally separate but governed by commissioners.
But the 9-1 vote Tuesday (June 6) by the Clackamas County Budget Committee, which consists of the five commissioners and five public members, drew a stinging dissent from a member aimed at Sheriff Craig Roberts.
Ed Mura of Colton made clear his dissatisfaction with what he feels is a lack of traffic enforcement leading to fatal crashes, a lack of school resource officers and no response to bad behavior by marijuana growers in rural areas.
Mura also singled out the case of Jeff Green, the now-retired sheriff's detective who faces multiple charges by the district attorney of official misconduct for alleged failure to investigate serious crimes, including child abuse.
Mura, who has been on the budget committee three years, said he was dissatisfied with the responses offered by Roberts and other sheriff's executives at a budget presentation May 31.
"The sheriff said he is on a maintenance-level budget — everyone in the county is — but this budget doesn't stop him from shifting priorities or finding ways to do more with less such as the district attorney and other Clackamas County managers do every year," Mura said in a statement he read aloud after he voted against the budget.
"Working toward national or local awards isn't a bad thing. But they mean nothing to the families of the victims who have died on Clackamas County roads or to the citizens of Clackamas County who have to deal with bad neighbors or who want some uniform(ed) presence at their schools without having to pay double taxes."
The sheriff's budget will grow from $85 million to $92 million — nearly two-thirds of it from the general fund, which is largely supported by property taxes — but the number of full-time positions will dip from 449 to 446. That's a result of positions lost when voters dissolved Damascus as a city last year.
The sheriff's office is one of a few agencies that has not yet moved toward managing-for-results standards under Performance Clackamas, which is scheduled for full implementation in 2018 — although the community corrections unit has done so.
No new services
Subtracting the spending for special districts, the county government budget is proposed at $781 million, up 8 percent from the current amount. Both double-count about $100 million in fund transfers, so actual spending is less.
The budget presented by County Administrator Don Krupp and his staff proposes no new services, and a slight decline in positions from 2,065 to 2,049. It assumes slower growth in property taxes at 4.75 percent — compared with the actual 5.14 percent this past year — and increased personnel costs of 5 percent, a big chunk of that in contributions to the public-pension system.
It assumes no increases in property tax rates, which are $2.40 per $1,000 of assessed value in cities and $2.97 per $1,000 in rural areas. Voters last fall also renewed a 25-cent tax for sheriff's operations countywide; there is an additional levy for staffing in urban unincorporated areas.
Unlike previous years, Krupp did not invite new spending initiatives, known as policy-level proposals.
Krupp said that given the uncertainty of state and federal grants this year — and growing needs for a new courthouse, and eventually a juvenile center and jail — "we have nowhere near the resources we need to carry those out."
Commissioner Paul Savas said he noticed that several agency budgets are balanced by carryover funds that can take place only once.
"We're just not as healthy as we think we are," he said.
But Board Chairman Jim Bernard said compared with where county government was during the depths of the economic downturn, "the county itself is in a good position."
"I disagree," he said. "I think we are healthy."
Public member Tom Feely of Gladstone said: "I think we are all saying the same thing, just from different angles. Don (Krupp) is cautioning us not to add to ongoing needs. The county is healthier than our state and federal partners, but we have unmet needs."
"We're probably one of the best managed counties in the state," said public member Eric Hofeld of Clackamas. "But I think we need some heart-to-heart discussion about priorities."
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