Budget Puts Focus on Homelessness, Emergency Preparedness, Complete Neighborhoods
WEDNESDAY, MAY 28, 2014 – The Portland City Council on Wednesday passed Mayor Charlie Hales’ budget for 2014-15. The $3.58 billion budget passed on a 5-0 vote.
“Last year we righted the ship. This year, we begin steering it toward addressing the issues of homelessness, emergency preparedness and making neighborhoods complete,” Hales said.
The budget must be approvied by the Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission of Multnomah County, then returns to the City Council for final adoption in June.
This is Portland’s first “stabilization” budget after years of cuts.
Hales has been in office just 17 months. During that time, he and the council passed a budget that eradicated last year’s $21.5 million shortfall; cut 142 full-time equivalent positions; retained the city’s best-in-the-nation bond rating; set aside funding to pay down millions of dollars in city debt; and made the city’s first-ever substantial revamping of Urban Renewal Areas, which put an estimated $1.06 billion worth of property back on the tax rolls, benefiting the city, Multnomah County and public schools.
This year, the city has slightly more than $9 million in discretionary funds to allocate, above the cost of ongoing city services. This revenue growth includes $4.6 million in ongoing funds, and $4.7 million in one-time funds. Hales focused much of that discretionary funding on his three priorities.
He allocated $2.25 million for homelessness, including $1 million for more outreach, referral and permanent housing for those now homeless and programs for youth homelessness. An additional $1 million would go for the Housing Investment Fund, which leverages federal and other money to build more units of affordable housing.
He allocated $1.42 million for emergency preparedness, including funds for improving the community emergency notification system and regional disaster preparedness. The budget calls for a $1.2 million investment in the Jerome Sears Facility, to begin developing the city-owned property into a West Side emergency operations facility.
And he allocated $2.25 million to help make neighborhoods complete, including new and ongoing funding for the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods, or SUN, program. Additional SUN Schools under the Mayor’s proposal include adding 10 new schools to the 70 SUN schools operating now, and providing permanent funding for five sites that faced expiring grants.
The budget also includes funding for the East Portland Action Plan and key investments in livability programs in the Office of Neighborhood Involvement and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
The approved budget includes:
● Continued funding for the TriMet Youth Pass for Portland Public School students.
● Summer internships for youths.
● Funds to support survivors of sex trafficking.
● Funding for the Earl Boyles Early Learning Center in East Portland.
● The Mayor’s Black Male Achievement initiative.
● The Diversity and Civic Leadership Program within the Office of Neighborhood Involvement.
● Funding for Southeast Works.
● A VOZ day laborers’ work center.
● The annual Symphony in the Park celebration.
● Additional funding for the Regional Arts and Culture Council.
● An equity position within Portland Police, to manage operations and activities designed to increase diversity, equity, empowerment, inclusion and cultural proficiency of the Police Bureau.
The most ambitious element of the mayor’s budget is the critical re-thinking of urban renewal areas: sectors of the city set aside to address blight. Under Oregon law, a city may draw boundaries around urban renewal areas, temporarily freeze property taxes that go to other governments, and use any incremental property tax revenue growth to stimulate development and investment. When urban renewal areas expire, the property tax value of their enhanced developments then flow back to the city, county, schools and other taxing jurisdictions.
By eliminating and shrinking urban renewal areas, the mayor’s budget returns an estimated $1.06 billion onto the tax rolls, and provides approximately $5 million to the city, county and school budgets this year, growing to approximately $6 million in 2015-16.
That proposal breaks down to an immediate increase of an estimated $1.5 million into the city’s 2014-15 budget – almost 17 percent of the additional $9 million in new discretionary funds, without raising taxes.
Another centerpiece of the Mayor’s budget is the city/county agreement crafted by Mayor Hales and Marissa Madrigal, chair of the Multnomah County Commission. Hales credits Madrigal’s strong leadership for making the accord work.
The City Council will hold the first hearing for ordinances that adopt solid waste collection, water, sewer and storm water recycling rates for fiscal year 2014-15. The utility rate hearing is 2 p.m. Thursday, May 22, in the Council Chamber, City Hall, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave. It is open to the public.
The City Council is expected to vote on the mayor’s approved budget by the end of May. The 2014-15 fiscal year starts July 1.