Survey Says: With Budget Shortfall Looming, County Residents Place Highest Value on Law, Justice Services

Clackamas County is in the midst of what they call the “Right-Sizing of the County’s Budget.” The county admits that current expenditures are outpacing revenue, due to declining state/federal revenues, cost-of-living increases and rising financial obligations (such as PERS and the Oregon Equal Pay Act).

The county says the budget for its current fiscal year is balanced (which is required by law), but this was accomplished by “drawing down one-time reserves that cannot be used again.”

“We are currently on an unsustainable path, so we’re taking actions now to avoid a future crisis,” the county says on its website. “This is an opportunity for Clackamas County to become leaner.”

The county has already taken steps to reduce spending, including 2 to 5 percent cost-cutting across county departments and the institution of a hiring freeze, in which only “essential positions” are being filled. The currently adopted budget is already $25 million less than the previous fiscal year. But it’s not enough.

Starting last year, the county encouraged residents and stakeholders to complete a survey rating various county services, and the results have now been released. The county sought feedback on the value of certain services funded through the county’s discretionary general fund, to provide context for the upcoming fiscal year 2020-2021 budget, which is anticipated to have a funding gap.

Altogether, Clackamas County collected more than 3,000 responses to the survey – the equivalent of almost 1% of the county’s total adult population.

“I’d like to thank the thousands of residents and stakeholders who took the time to provide this valuable feedback,” stated Clackamas County Administrator Gary Schmidt. “The number of responses illustrates how much our community members care about what we offer.”

The survey asked residents to rate the value of 40 county services that rely, in part, on the general fund, and serve external customers.

The highest-rated services included various Sheriff’s Office divisions, the District Attorney, County Parks, Juvenile Offender Accountability and the Library system, which seemed to clearly demonstrate the high value the community places on law and justice-related services. Of the top 10 rated services, only County Parks and Library Systems were not justice-related.

Services that received the lowest average rating included Conflict Resolution, Public Health Population Health Strategies, Property Valuation and the County Surveyor. Find the complete survey results on the county’s website.

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