Challenges are ahead, but panel is advised that 'it looks better' for projected revenues to keep pace with estimated spending for the next few years.

Clackamas County income for its general fund, its most flexible budget account, is on track to keep pace with spending for the next few years.

County Administrator Don Krupp and other officials say there are still challenges ahead with population growth and increased demand for services, rising contributions to the public pension system, and operating subsidies for some departments.

But in a Nov. 29 briefing for county commissioners and public members of the county budget committee, Krupp said, "it looks better" than in the most recent projections.

"We will be able to keep what we currently have," he said, including 5 percent for contingencies and 10 percent for reserves.

County government employs about 2,000.

The budget committee, which consists of the five commissioners and five public members, will meet twice more — on Feb. 21 and May 12 — before it starts consideration of the 2018-19 budget that takes effect July 1.

Budget Manager Diane Padilla identified two pending challenges: Rising county contributions to the public pension system — preliminary rates just released for the next two-year budget cycle jump by 5 percentage points over rates now in effect through mid-2019 — and operating subsidies from the general fund to some departments, notably the Sheriff's Office.

Some departments are more dependent on the general fund, which comes largely from property taxes, than others that receive state and federal grants or collect fees for services.

Figures presented to the budget committee show that overall spending and specific agency spending have been kept in check despite revenues falling a little short.

For the three most recently completed budget years, ending on June 30 of this year, revenues for all county departments were slightly below projections — 3 percent for 2016 and 5 percent for 2017 — but actual spending was down from budgeted amounts by 23 percent in 2016 and 32 percent in 2017.

For the Sheriff's Office, revenues were down 17 percent in 2016 and were on target in 2017 — some internal funds were transferred to balance its budget — but actual spending was down by 19 percent in 2016 and 5 percent in 2017. Much of the savings came from holding vacant jobs open.

Growth in taxable property values in Clackamas County was at 4.6 percent this past year, and will rise to 5.25 percent by 2020-21.

"We're not assuming we are going to do anything new," Padilla said.

However, Krupp said, county population growth, about 35,000 in the past seven years, is likely to result in increased demand for some services.

"We're serving an entire city that was not here 10 years ago," he said.

Also pending: A request by Sheriff Craig Roberts for staff to open some unused beds at the jail; a backlog of maintenance needs for county facilities and roads, and possible action by county commissioners to aid in increased housing.

The county is preparing to receive more state aid for road maintenance, not yet specified, as a result of action (HB 2017) by the Legislature on transportation funding.

Commissioner Ken Humberston said the county awaits beefing up zoning-code enforcement and addiction treatment programs with new money from a county tax and a share of state taxes on sales of recreational marijuana.

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Link to Clackamas County budget update documents:

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