Multnomah County Commissioners Judy Shiprack and Deborah Kafoury got it right. The proposed Education Urban Renewal Area is a bad deal for Multnomah County and those whose depend upon its programs. From the “Draft Education URA Technical Report” (here), the proposed EURA over thirty years would shift an estimated $37,804,811 in funds from Multnomah County to the EURA (mostly to real estate developers).
The details of that calculation are: (1) Revenues foegone by Multnomah County through the tax abatement process would be $67,791,822 (Table 9). (2) A shared revenues process would return $10,837,011 to Multnomah County (Table 10), resulting in a net revenue loss to the County of $56,954,811. And finally (3), $19,150,00 is allocated back to Multnomah County for, I think, a project described as : “A development project will serve as a home for functions of the County Department of Human Services. PSU will strive to co-locate compatible academic and research programs with this project. A synergistic co-location will leverage PSU's academic and research expertise with the County's proficiency in service design and delivery to advance programs supporting social and community prosperity.”
I’ve previously documented how the proposed Education Urban Renewal Area is a bad deal for K-12 schools across Oregon (see here and links from there).
From the Oregonian article “Multnomah county commissioners split on Portland State urban renewal: Portland City Hall roundup” by Beth Slovic (here):
Multnomah County commissioners voted 3-2 last week in favor of Portland Mayor Sam Adams' proposal to create an urban renewal district around Portland State University and earmark $19 million for the county.
Commissioners Judy Shiprack and Deborah Kafoury voted against the measure, with Kafoury saying it's not good timing given tight budgets at the county and Portland school districts.
"We have other really pressing priorities," Kafoury said.
Urban renewal zones, generally speaking, take money from other local governments to create funding for large capital projects inside designated areas. Adams' new zone at PSU would drain about $50 million from the county's coffers over the zone's 30-year life. It would also divert about $60 million from Portland Public Schools, Kafoury said, although the formula for calculating that figure is complicated and it could be lower.
To soften the blow, Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen negotiated a multi-million dollar deal with city officials. If the Portland City Council approves the zone, the Portland Development Commission will carve out $19 million so the county can build new Department of County Human Services headquarters at PSU.
"You end up trading service dollars for new buildings," Kafoury said. "And, at least in my opinion, they're not equal."
It is about priorities. Developing Portland State University is important, but not more so than the services provided by Multnomah County nor the educational needs of students in poor school districts across Oregon. So shame on Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogan and the two commissioners, Loretta Smith and Diane McKeel, who voted in support of the proposed Education Urban Renewal Area.