The Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission
Weekly Update - September 8, 2020
Good Morning Update Readers,

Remember back in March when the COVID-19 virus was making itself known in Oregon? Within a space of three weeks, we went from calmly preparing budgets as usual, to working from home and working in disruption. In that disruption and the avalanche of pandemic information that followed, we suspended the TSCC Weekly Update.

Now that our initial response to the pandemic has matured and know we must operate with this virus for many more months, we want to restart the Update. With so many of us working remotely, isolated from the daily interactions with our colleagues, it seems more important than ever to stay connected. We hope the TSCC Weekly Update can contribute to that. 

Now, let’s catch up…….

Since the end of February many TSCC members went from preparing for a regular FY 2020-2021 with straightforward problems of prioritizing services and forecasting revenues to taking on new and urgent pandemic response duties and costs. Members designated essential workers, began running operations from home offices, closed school buildings and launched distance learning curriculum, provided emergency food and shelter, deferred rents and evictions and, sadly, shut down some of our favorite parks, the zoo, and arts venues, laying off staff in the process. Mandatory closing or limitations on private businesses caused unemployment to soar and business-related revenues to plummet, bringing more human problems and revenue problems to local governments. And this does not even address the additional pressures on member jurisdictions as our community began to confront the issues of racial injustice.  

We at TSCC wanted to take the time to record the story of what we have all been through these last five months. We will do that in installments in the next few issues of the TSCC Update.

As we restart the update, in future issues, you will notice a change from the pre-pandemic version: we will be linking to fewer newspaper articles. Over time, our regular sources of local news have been erecting paywalls. We will not include blocked articles in the Update. Another emerging limitation is that the paywall-free media sources are not covering local government and school districts as much as they have in the past. The upshot is that published local news and information about local government finance and finance people is getting scarce. We will try to make up for this by reporting on things that we notice that will be of interest to you. This week's edition is an exception as we catch-up on recent events and articles.

As part of this effort, we invite you to send us news and information about your jurisdictions. It would be great if we can collectively make up for the loss of local media coverage of our work. Please send Tunie or me any information from your districts that you think would be of interest to your peers.

Craig Gibons
Executive Director
Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission

Budgeting in the COVID-19 Pandemic in Multnomah County - 2020
Episode 1: The Pandemic Arrives

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the state of Oregon in March of 2020. The response to its arrival was abrupt and dramatic. 

On March 2nd, Governor Kate Brown opened a state emergency coordination center. On March 8th, she declared a state of emergency. In order to control the spread of the virus she took three steps in rapid secession. On March 12th she ordered all K-12 schools closed. On March 17th, she prohibited gatherings of 25 or more people and banned on-site consumption of food and beverages at eating establishments. On March 18th, she ordered all higher education institutions to suspend in-person instruction. On March 23rd she directed individuals to stay home to the greatest extend possible, ordered certain retail businesses closed, and required “social distancing” for other facilities. 
On April 15th, the Governor directed all governing bodies to hold public meetings by telephone, video, or other electronic means and to provide an electronic means for the public to attend and provide testimony at the meetings.

By then, most government and private sector employers still operating had directed non-essential workers to begin working from home. 

The abrupt and dramatic nature of these changes parallels the increase in COVID-19 cases in Oregon. There were 14 cases on March 8th. By April 15 there were at least 1,663 cases. 

The abrupt changes are also reflected in the number of first-time unemployment claims filed in the state. The week of March 14th, 4,269 initial claims were filed statewide, about average for the year up to then. The week of March 21st, 76,500 initial claims were filed. The week of March 28th, 88,600 were filed. The week of April 4, 78,100 were filed. 

Following this article are charts that show the pandemic's abrupt impact on the economy. These economic changes, combined with the increase demand for public services wrought by the pandemic, skewered local government and school district budgets.

In next week's TSCC Update, we will continue this story by starting to look at the pandemic's impact on our districts and budgets.
Stay tuned.

Estimated TriMet Boardings (Bus and Rail)

While difficult to read, this chart shows that weekly TriMet boardings dropped from 1.8 million at the first of March to 600,000 the first week of April.
PDX Enplanements

This chart shows the abrupt drop in airplane boardings at PDX: from 672,000 in February to 37,000 in April.
Traffic Volumes

This chart, from Oregon Department of Transportation, compares the March and April 2020 traffic volumes (light blue bars) with the same periods for 2019 (dark blue bars).
Unemployment Insurance Claims

This chart shows the number of Unemployment Insurance Claims filed each month.
New Daily COVID Cases

And finally, just to bring us up-to-date, here is a recent chart tracking the new COVID cases reported each day. The initial increase of zero to 100 in 30 days was a shock, but pales by comparison to the more recent numbers of cases. This chart is from a daily CORONA update email produced by State Senator Michael Dembrow. You can subscribe here.
News and Information
Oregon State Legislature
During the legislature's first 2020 Special Session in June it passed HB 4212. The bill authorizes governing bodies of public bodies, other than State of Oregon, to conduct all public meetings using telephone or video conferencing technology or through other electronic or virtual means. Here is a link to the bill
Multnomah County Library
On behalf of the Library District, Multnomah County has put a $387 million General Obligation Bond Measure on the November ballot: Ballot Measure 26-211 "Bonds to Expand, Renovate, Construct Library Branches, Facilities; Increase Safety." The planned projects include a new east county flagship library of the same size as the Central Library in downtown Portland.

News Headlines:

Portland Public Schools
City of Portland
Riverdale School District
Cindy Duley, the business manager for the Riverdale School District left the district this summer. The district has contracted with the Northwest Education Service District for business manager services.
Corbett School District
The Corbett School Board put a $4 million General Obligation Bond measure on the November ballot. If it passes, the district will qualify for a $3.9 million Oregon Capital Improvement Match grant. Here is a link to the ballot title.

Long time district superintendent Randy Trani left the district this summer for a position with the Mat-Su school district in Alaska (news report). He has been replaced by an interim superintendent, Dan Wold.

Corbett School District contracts with the Multnomah Education Service District for business manager services and the ESD just announced that they have hired Cindy Duley to serve in this role.
FY21 Budget Reports
We have just completed entering all 42 district budgets into our data base system. Now we can, and will, run reports to examine all that data. This first report compares FY21 Adopted budgets to FY20 Revised budgets.

Keep in mind that as they are preparing budgets, districts handle the current year budget in different ways. For some, the current year budget remains the adopted budget. For some, it is the adopted budget modified by supplemental budgets, and for some it is a year-end estimate of actual expenditures. This variety all goes into our data base as "revised budgets."

Total budgets increased from $17.3 to 19.5 Billion (12%).

The three districts with large increases this year are;
  • The Port of Portland (47%),
  • Centennial School District (75%), and
  • Portland Public Schools (98%).

All three districts budgeted large capital improvement projects for FY21.

The District with the largest FY21 budget increase is the Wood Village Urban Renewal Agency, whose budget increased by $231% due to a large debt service payment.

Next week we will look at the expenditure-only budgets: the same chart, sans transfers, contingencies, and fund balance.