The 2014-15 budget, passed by the Metro Council this month, shows signs of economic recovery.
"This is the first year in three or four years where we haven't been in a reduction mode," said Metro budget coordinator Kathy Rutkowski.
The 2014-15 budget totals $483,840,994, which is about a two percent increase from last year's budget. By way of comparison, Hillsboro has a $445 million budget, Gresham a $446 million budget and Portland's budget totals $2.8 billion.
On the expenditure side, the big change from last year's Metro budget is in capital expenses, which increased by about 10 percent. That increase is because of construction projects taking place at the Oregon Zoo and in natural areas throughout the region. Both of these efforts stem from bond measures passed in 2008 and 2006 respectively.
Metro projects increases for its two largest sources of revenue: charges for services and property taxes.
The increase in property tax revenue is a sign of a recovering housing market that is allowing Metro to escape the effects of compression. Both real market and assessed values are increasing, bringing in more revenue for the regional government.
"The rate per $1,000 of assessed value has actually gone down, but since assessed value has increased it results in more revenue," said Rutkowski. "Assessed value has gone up more than we originally projected for this year, and we believe that will continue next year."
The owner of a home with an assessed value of $100,000 will pay $46.50 in property taxes to Metro next year, down $1 from the year before. About 60 percent of that $46.50 will go to paying down voter-approved bonds for natural areas and the Oregon Zoo.
The resurgence of the visitor venues that Metro runs, like the Oregon Convention Center and the Oregon Zoo, is another sign of the improving economy. It's particularly noticeable at the Convention Center, where many bookings for 2013-14 were made – or more likely, not made – during the peak of the Great Recession.
"Visitor venues are going back to pre-recession levels," Rutkowski said. "Since bookings are made two to three years in advance, that meant 2013-14 was the bottom of the barrel. This year the bookings are back up and that leads to an increase in revenue."
Each venue is seeing an increase in bookings. The Oregon Convention Center is increasing from 32 to 42 bookings, the Expo Center from 112 to 122, and even the number of Broadway shows coming to town is increasing from six to nine.
"We're also projecting about a four percent increase in revenue at the (Oregon) zoo," Rutkowski said.
Normally, that zoo revenue is dependent on attendance and weather, but for this year construction will also play a role. Rutkowski said visitors might hold off on going to the zoo until construction is done, since about a third of the zoo will be under construction.
The other major service that Metro runs is solid waste, which is also projected to see more revenue next year, due to an increase in the tonnage collected. According to Rutkowski, Metro saw a 10 percent increase in tonnage during the current fiscal year and analysts believe collections will increase another 5 percent next year.
All these numbers and increases show that Metro is beginning to feel the effects of a recovering economy.
"We are cautiously optimistic that we're on that gradual incline again," Rutkowski said. "We don't expect it to jump up real fast, but we also don't think it'll drop back down."