What is happening? Scheduled public forums for Portlanders to comment on the next city budget begin Tuesday, April 2, and continue through May 22.
Why is this important? The City Council must adopt balanced budgets for all Portland agencies that take effect July 1 of every year. Each agency submits recommended budgets that meet requirements set by the mayor during the first months of the calendar year. The council is briefed on them in work sessions that do not allow public testimony after that.
But then public forums are scheduled where Portlanders can testify on next year's budget. They begin before the mayor submits his proposed budget — which will happen May 1 — and continue until shortly before the council votes to approve its version. These are the only times reserved for public testimony, although letters, emails and phone calls also can be directed to the council offices.
What are the biggest issues this year? The bureau with the biggest potential cut this year is Portland Parks & Recreation, which is facing a potential $6.3 million funding shortfall. The bureau has proposed laying off up to 50 employees and increasing program fees by yet-to-be-determined amounts to close the gap.
These cuts and fee increases have been proposed despite the fact that the city is taking in a record amount of general fund revenue, the share of funding the council has the most control over.
Mayor Ted Wheeler has directed all general fund-financed agencies to submit proposed budgets with 1 percent cuts, in part to "free up" more money for other uses. That includes homeless services, a priority set by the council when it approved a housing state of emergency in 2015 and subsequently extended it three times.
What can I do? In addition to contacting council offices directly, the city has released a schedule for public forums where anyone can testify.
The first is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 2, at the IRCO Main Office Gym, 10301 N.E. Glisan St. Public testimony is by lottery, with tickets available starting at 5:30 p.m.
Two community work sessions with public testimony are scheduled next.
Chronic homelessness and supportive housing is the focus of the first one from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 6, in Room 220 of the student union at Portland Community College's Cascade Campus, 705 N. Killingsworth St.
The second one focuses on parks, recreation and open spaces from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, in the north cafeteria of David Douglas High School, 1001 S.E. 135th Ave.
The hearing on the mayor's proposed budget is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at a location to be determined.
You can find the schedule for all public forums and council sessions at www.portlandoregon.gov/cbo.
You can find contact information for all council members at www.portlandoregon.gov.
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