Council begins work on next Portland budget
The City Council begins work on approving the next Portland budget this coming week.
Mayor Ted Wheeler released his proposed $5.7 billion budget for the next fiscal year Thursday, April 29. The council will hold a work session on the proposed budget from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 4. A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 5.
Both events will be livestreamed on the council's website. No public testimony will be taken during the work session. The public can testify at the hearing by signing up by 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 4, here.
The final budget is scheduled to be heard May 13. The approved version takes effect July 1.
"For the Portland City Council, the opportunity of 2021 is to work collaboratively to make investments that will help us continue to recover from the pandemic," Wheeler said when he released his proposed budget. "The budget I propose reflects my commitment to change and my optimism about Portland's future."
Commissioner Mingus Mapps was the first council member to support Wheeler's proposed budget.
"There are many programs and projects that I'm thrilled to see in the mayor's proposed budget. These are examples of the important ways that the city government can direct its resources toward areas that will enable Portland to respond to this multidimensional crisis, recover quickly and rebuild in a way that lifts our hardest-hit communities. I know that many Portlanders are discouraged about the state of the city today, but I am certain that the investments will spur economic development, improve community safety, support housing and houseless services and provide a path toward a greater city of Portland," Mapps said after the budget was released.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said she would spend the weekend reviewing the proposed budget and consider potential amendments.
"As a city, we are working our way back from crisis. We are still in the middle of negotiating ourselves through a worldwide pandemic. I believe that we can build back a better and more equitable Portland, and I am committed to working with all Portlanders and my colleagues to do that," Hardesty said. "I still believe that we can build one Portland, where everyone has access to the same levels of services and are treated with respect. You can count on me to continue to work toward that vision every day."
Although the city is facing a $20 million general fund shortfall because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wheeler used $29 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to more than offset the loss. Just about the only budget he is proposing to cut is that of the Portland Police Bureau. It would be reduced by $3 million, despite his push to reconstitute a unit to investigate shootings and killings that have surged since the middle of last year.
The only other proposed cut is a $70,000 reduction in the Bureau of Emergency Management.
All other bureaus would see their net budgets grow. The increases range from $30,191 for the City Attorney's Office to nearly $12 million for Portland Parks & Recreation, thanks to an operating levy approved by voters at the November 2020 general election.
Wheeler's proposed budget also would increase funding for the city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services and the Portland Housing Bureau by $8.6 million to help address the homeless and affordable housing crises.
He also is proposing to fully fund the new Street Response Team — unarmed city staff, rather than police officers, responding to nonemergency calls such as people in mental health crises — and to support other nonpolice programs to reduce violence and arrests.
And Wheeler is proposing a series of economic initiatives, including $700,000 for minority chambers of commerce.
The general fund budget would increase from $591.1 million to $593.8 million. That includes the $29 million in one-time federal funds. And that is only the first round received by the city. More than 70% of federal funds aren't yet in the city's hands. Wheeler wants the City Council to decide how to spend the rest later this year.
Wheeler also wants the council to commit $8.3 million in coming federal funds to sustain the permitting and review functions at the Bureau of Development Services. Its fee-generated revenue is declining because construction is slowing down.
The council has the most control over how general fund dollars are spent. The total proposed budget including all funds is $5.7 billion, which is $156 million less than the current revised budget.
A previous Portland Tribune story on the proposed budget can be found here.
The announcement with specific spending proposals can be found here.
The proposed budget can be found here.
More information about Wheeler's proposed budget and the approval process can be found on the City Budget Office website here.
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