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Discussions about spending Portland's surplus will continue on Nov. 10 when a vote could take place.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Portland police on patrol.The Portland City Council held a budget meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the historic budget surplus of nearly $62 million and the mayor's proposal for spending that huge surplus.

Half of the city's surplus is available to be spent during the Fall Budget Adjustment Process discussed during the Nov. 4 work session. Discussions will continue on Nov. 10, which is the earliest the council could vote on on spending the funds.

Mayor Ted Wheeler rolled out his top priorities for spending with most of the money proposed to be allocated toward dealing with homelessness, community safety and economic recovery.

"The city is fortunate to be navigating a historic surplus of $62 million," Wheeler said.

City commissioners listened to the mayor's proposal which would put around around 18.9 million into addressing homelessness, $7 million into improving public safety and $2.2 million into supporting economic recovery.

"This investment proposal focuses on infrastructure, human infrastructure," Wheeler said.

With much of the proposal's money going toward homelessness, Wheeler explained where the plan targets that money, including increasing capacity to do outreach work, offering storage services and hygiene solutions and funding greater capacity in the behavioral health unit, which responds to people having a behavioral health crisis.

He said it also allows for a five-fold increase in camp cleanups, returning the city to pre-pandemic operation levels and creates a street coordination center to monitor shelters in real-time allowing first responders and outreach workers to offer a bed that they know is available.

The proposal also creates 400 additional beds in the transitional shelter system. There wasn't a lot of debate during the meeting, but Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty did question whether the city was getting value out of the money that was already being spent to tackle homelessness.

"I can't just not acknowledge the significant increase of resources we continue to send to the (city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services)," Hardesty said. "I'm just curious, if there is any analysis of the added value that continues to be added as we continue to add more dollars to that particular office. Is there any data of the outcomes, based on money we keep pouring into that particular entity?"

The city budget director said they'd have the information available in coming weeks.

In the wake of George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis in May 2020, the Portland City Council cut millions of dollars from the Portland Police Bureau. Now it looks like City Hall may be ready to re-invest in the bureau. Commissioners Dan Ryan and Mingus Mapps told KOIN 6 News they also support more money going to the police bureau, seemingly providing three of the five votes on the council.

Wheeler released his police funding increase proposals on Wednesday, Nov. 3. They include rehiring 25 retired Portland officers, nearly $3 million for body cameras and $1 million to expand the Portland Street Response program citywide.

Ryan said he "absolutely" supports more officers for public safety. "The mayor's proposal talks about 25. I'll look at that and then we'll figure out how we can go forward."

"I want to reduce gun violence in the city of Portland by 20% over the next year," Mapps said. "Next, I want to see at least 1,000 fewer people sleeping in tents on the sidewalk a year from now than we see today."

Along with adding officers and growing the Behavioral Health Unit in the bureau, Mapps also supports body cameras, expanding the PS3 program and expanding the Portland Street Response unit.

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.


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