Metro budget officials said they expect a 20 percent drop in revenue for the coming fiscal year, according to a budget approved by the Metro Council on Thursday.
The initial Metro budget, released just as the COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold in Oregon, anticipated $424 million in revenue for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Instead, Metro expects $333 million, with more cuts possible if the coronavirus pandemic forces more facility closures beyond autumn 2020.
“It’s based on our best estimate at this time,” said Metro chief financial officer Brian Kennedy.
Overall, Metro expects $132 million in charges for services – things like rental and operations charges at the Oregon Convention Center, Portland Expo Center and Portland’5 Centers for the Arts, as well as charges for using Metro’s solid waste transfer stations.
That’s down from $169 million in 2018-19.
Visitor taxes, which support operations at Metro’s visitor venues, were also slashed in the modified forecast, from $27 to $10 million. With tourism sidelined as people seek to avoid inadvertently spreading, or contracting COVID-19, hotel and car rental tax revenues have been hammered.
That’s particularly bad news for Metro, which still has fixed costs associated with maintaining buildings like the Keller Auditorium, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and the Oregon Convention Center.
“For the OCC, P5 (Portland’5 Centers for the Arts) and Expo, to keep them as functioning buildings ready to re-open in the fall, it costs about $2.7 million a month,” Kennedy said. That isn’t just fixing window seals or keeping the air running. The venues have base water, sewer and electricity charges that are set on an annual basis. Staff has to continue working to prepare for conventions that will occur as the virus, hopefully wanes. And security guards make sure the buildings aren’t subject to vandalism in their closure.
That $2.7 million-a-month figure also includes costs due to Oregon’s unemployment fund in the wake of the sweeping layoffs that occurred at the venues in April.
Meanwhile, in Portland’s West Hills, the animals at the Oregon Zoo need care regardless of whether any visitors are buying $18 admission tickets at the front gates. Providing a base level of care for animals at the zoo costs around $1.7 million a month to operate.
In the current fiscal year, the zoo had budgeted about $31 million in revenues from things like ticket sales, memberships, food and beverage sales and facility rentals for events.
Finally, Metro’s solid waste stream is expecting continued cuts as businesses remain closed. Commercial food waste – uneaten food from restaurants and grocery stores, for example – has plummeted.
At Metro’s self-haul transfer stations, record numbers of customers are coming through dropping off home garbage. But their loads are typically smaller, and the tonnage of waste going through the system is down 12 percent from 2019.
The loss in revenue at Metro’s visitor venues impacts the rest of the agency, as well. The venues sent a portion of their revenue to Metro’s general fund for accounting, human resources, technology support and other services.
The pre-COVID-19 budget for fiscal year 2020-21 featured 1,040 full-time equivalent Metro employees. Thursday’s adopted budget included 978 FTE.
“That reflects eliminating positions that had been approved to go into a proposed budget, as well as layoffs throughout the agency,” Kennedy said.
The budget is scheduled for review by the Multnomah County Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission on June 4, with final approval by the Metro Council coming June 18.
Learn more about the Metro budget