2022-23 County Proposed Budget

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Sponsored by: County Administrative Office

Proposal released for $1.6 billion county budget

Proposed Budget Cover FY 2022-23

Washington County’s proposed $1.6 billion total budget is now available online for public review and comment. The spending plan represents a changing financial landscape for the organization as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic era, including steps to better align constrained revenues with community need.

“[T]he county is facing critical financial challenges this fiscal year, both in the moment of building this proposed budget and as a consequence of long-term structural or systemic problems impinging on the organization’s ability to support its community-focused mission,” states County Administrator Tanya Ange in the proposed budget’s summary.  

Under Oregon law, local governments must adopt balanced budgets where total resources equal total obligations for the coming fiscal year. In constructing the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, county staff determined that the total of requested expenditures for the county’s general fund would exceed the resources needed to maintain the county’s reserve requirements. To address the resulting $30 million difference, a balanced proposed budget has been presented to the Budget Committee.

Active Steps to Balance the General Fund
To arrive at balance, the county instituted a series of cuts over the short term, including the use of reserves and other one-time revenue; pausing a $4 million annual general fund appropriation to affordable housing production; stopping all but critical capital projects to improve facilities and technology systems; and a hiring freeze of all vacant and requested positions that may affect the balancing of the general fund. 

“Again, these unprecedented measures have been taken to address both current and ongoing factors shaping the county’s budgeting environment. Our intent is to reset the county’s approach to achieve financial stability in the next fiscal year and over the long term,” wrote Ange.

Short- and Long-term Challenges
Immediate challenges resulting in the shortfall include the impact of rising inflation, flat or reduced state funding for core services such as Community Corrections, increased requests for new positions due to the growing demand for services, state and federal mandates that come without funding and the elimination of one-time federal aid to address pandemic impacts to services. 

Long-term challenges include a property tax system that does not produce revenue at pace with growing and dynamic community need; antiquated enterprise financial, human resources and budgeting systems; a lack of an enterprise-wide capital improvement planning approach; and a legacy of general fund transfers to library and road improvement services from the days before voter-supported property tax levies were rolled into the county’s permanent tax rate due to statewide property tax reform. 

Modest Growth
The total proposed budget would increase by $55.3 million or 4% above the 2021-22 modified budget. This modest change is largely explained by the net impact of one-time federal pandemic response and recovery dollars sharply declining net of increases from regional housing allocations and consolidation of funds for expanded behavioral health services. 

Looking at the general fund specifically, expenditures would increase by $15.3 million representing essentially flat growth (4%) given the general fund’s $366.3 million size. The growth comes from the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office expenditures increasing by $3.9 million and $2.6 million, respectively, to maintain current service levels at pace with population growth and to address new state mandates. A portion of the general fund reserves called “Non-departmental Contingency” would also increase by $17.6 million to help meet a policy target of reserves that are at least 15% of net discretionary revenues, with a goal of 20% of net revenues. The general fund represents the portion of the budget over which the Board of County Commissioners has the most discretionary spending authority. 

Revenues from property and other taxes supporting the general fund increased by 9% compared with the modified budget from the 2021-22 fiscal year. This single revenue category, which is constrained in its growth through provisions in the Oregon Constitution restricting property taxes, supports 58% of the county’s general fund. 

Focusing on Equity 
For the first time in the organization’s history, equity considerations were explicitly assessed across the entire budget. Using a model developed nationally by the Government Alliance on Racial Equity (GARE), Washington County developed a set of equity-focused strategies and questions – called the Budget Equity Tool – to drive informed and targeted decision-making about the allocation of resources. 

As described in the budget summary, departments and offices throughout the organization identified “several equity investments that reflect significant staff work, community engagement, attention to access and outcome data, a commitment to culturally appropriate service delivery and an investment in staff capacity to meet the needs of a very diverse community.”

A full description of the findings can be found in the Budget Equity Analysis portion of the proposed budget documents published to the county’s website.

Budget Committee Meetings
Washington County has four distinct budget committees. The Washington County, Service District for Lighting No. 1, Urban Road Maintenance District, Enhanced Sheriff’s Patrol District and the North Bethany County Service District for Roads budget committees. These committees focus on their specific areas and some committees have shared memberships.

Members of the public are encouraged to participate in this year’s budget process in a variety of ways: 

  • Review the Fiscal Year 2022-23 Proposed Budget Summary and submit questions or comments to finance_budget@co.washington.or.us
  • Attend any of the Budget Committee meetings or public hearings virtually and provide comments at designated times. The public may also attend in person at the Charles D. Cameron Public Services Building, Auditorium, 155 N. First Avenue in Hillsboro
  • Meetings will also be live-streamed from the County’s YouTube channel.
  • Meeting dates and times include:
    • Monday, May 9, 2022 – 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. — First of two meetings of the County Budget and Service District for Lighting No. 1 Budget Committees. Public comment invited at the end of the meeting.
    • Thursday, May 12, 2022 – 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. – Second of two meetings of the County Budget and Service District for Lighting No. 1 Budget Committees. Public comment invited at the end of the meeting.
    • Monday, May 16, 2022 – 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. – Enhanced Sheriff’s Patrol District Budget Committee meeting. Public comment invited at the end of the meeting.
    • Thursday, May 19, 2022 – 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. – North Bethany County Service District for Roads and the Urban Road Maintenance District Budget Committees meetings. Public comment invited at the end of each meeting.
    • Wednesday, June 1, 2022 – 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. – North Bethany County Service District for Roads, Urban Road Maintenance District and Enhanced Sheriff’s Patrol District Budget Committees Public Hearings. Public testimony is welcomed prior to committee action on each budget. Register in advance by visiting the How to Testify webpage.
    • Thursday, June 2, 2022 – 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. — County Budget and Service District for Lighting No. 1 Budget Committees Public Hearings. Public testimony is welcomed at a time certain of 6 p.m., which will be prior to any committee action. Register in advance by visiting the How to Testify webpage.

Washington County, Oregon, has a mission to provide excellent and cost-effective services that support healthy, peaceful, safe and sustainable communities and encourage meaningful participation in community activities and county governance. The organization is staffed by over 2,337 full-time equivalent employees serving a diverse and growing population of 605,036 on the western side of the Portland metropolitan area. More information about Washington County can be found at www.co.washington.or.us

Media Contact:

Philip Bransford, Communications Officer