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1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 340, Portland, OR 97204
THURSDAY, JUNE 20, 2013 – The city of Portland passed its $3.44 billion budget for 2013-14 after months of wrangling.
Mayor Charlie Hales took office with a $25 million shortfall in the budget. As the economy improved, that changed to a $21.5 million shortfall. And weeks before the budget was finalized, the shortfall moved to $16 million, following a court ruling on a telecommunication suit, and action by the Oregon Legislature to address the Public Employees Retirement System, or PERS.
Still, addressing the shortfall meant 142 fewer full-time equivalent positions next year. Each bureau saw budget hits, including Police and Fire & Rescue. The Office of Healthy Working Rivers was eliminated.
Even the final vote wasn’t without pitfalls. The City Council voted 4-1 to pass the budget, with Commissioner Amanda Fritz voting “no.” But as an emergency clause, the budget needed unanimity. The mayor called the council back into session an hour later and, in about 60 seconds, passed the budget.
This time, it passed 5-0.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 29, 2013 – The Portland City Council today took up the proposed budget for 2013-14. The budget rights a $21.5 million shortfall in revenue by asking every bureau to take a 10 percent budget hit, and then to argue, program by program, for any additional funding.
The council voted 4-1 to approve the budget. Commissioner Amanda Fritz voted “no.”
“This budget makes huge changes,” Hales said. “It asks the question: what are the core missions of the city? It goes back-to-basics, on issues such as paving streets. And it minimizes layoffs. This budget is lean, not mean.”
The budget now goes to the Multnomah County Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission, which has 20 days to study the issues. The City Council is expected to take its final vote on the budget Thursday, June 20.
Hales’ proposed budget had called for eliminating 182 full-time equivalent positions from the city. That number was whittled down to 163 last week, accounting for a favorable ruling on a city telecommunications tax, and anticipated PERS savings from the 2013 Legislature.
The 163 FTE reduction will account for only 26 actual layoffs – and that number could fluctuate between now and the end of the fiscal year, June 30.
Hales had initiated a financial incentive for early retirees. He also proposed so-called “bridge funding” to keep personnel expected to retire on the payroll for one year. That bridge funding meant younger, more diverse workers would not have to be laid off this year.
"We started with a reduction of 182 FTE and, as of today, it looks like we're down to about 26 actual layoffs? That's great,” Hales said. “This is leaner, not meaner. I'd like that to be down to zero, and we've still got six weeks to go, so let's see."
TUESDAY, MAY 21, 2013 – With only a week to go before the City Council votes on Mayor Charlie Hales’ proposed budget, a spate of good news looks likely to stave off some of the worst predicted cuts.
Staff of the City Budget Office have recalculated the costs for the 2013-14 budget based on two factors: A successful defense of a lawsuit involving the CenturyLink telecommunication firm, and PERS savings created by the 2013 Legislature.
PERS is the state of Oregon’s retirement fund for public employees.
Andrew Scott, chief budget officer for the city, said another factor was $700,000 paid from the 2012-13 ending balance to pay for police and fire personnel who expect to retire within the year. Mayor Hales had recommended spending the so-called “bridge funds” next year, rather than this year. That freed up $700,000 in the 2013-14 budget.
As a result, programs such as the Buckman Pool will be funded (for two years, until a new community center is built in the vicinity), along with the Sellwood Community Center. Anticipated layoffs in Parks & Recreation also were averted.
The Police Bureau’s Mounted Patrol Unit – known as the Horse Patrol – also was saved, but not with additional funds from the mayor. A private citizens’ group, Friends of The Mounted Patrol, vowed to raise $200,000 per year for two years to house and feed the horses. Police Chief Mike Reese agreed to reduce the size of the Horse Patrol from six to four, and to reallocate some personnel within the bureau.
FRIDAY, MAY 17, 2013 – The Portland area budget-crafting season has kicked off with a deal cut between Jeff Cogen, chairman of the Multnomah County Commission, and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.
Less than two hours before Thursday’s budget hearing at Portland City Hall began, the two leaders hammered out a joint agreement on funding for a wide array of area services – with the county picking up the tab on some and the city on others.
“What’s really great is that the city and county have collaborated to address the needs of our community,” Cogen told The Oregonian’s Dana Tims. “This spirit of partnership and collaboration leaves me feeling very hopeful about this arrangement.”
"Chair Cogen has been a great partner in these talks," Mayor Hales said. "He gets the whole focus behind collaboration and clarity in the budget-writing process."
Under the agreement, the city will maintain, for one year, its portion of the funding for the Crisis Assessment Treatment Center, known as CATC. Mayor Hales had planned to end that funding in his original budget.
In exchange, Multnomah County will pick up the city's share for the needle exchange program and a one-stop domestic violence center. And the county will provide one-time money to maintain the current level of funding for our community's senior centers and will split the cost of three SUN schools for one year, giving both the city and county time to work on a longer-term solution for both of those vital services. The county also will fund a needle exchange program.
Both governments’ budget hearings continue in coming weeks. Portland’s meetings are set for 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at Warner Pacific College, 2219 S.E. 68th Ave.; and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, May 23, at Jackson Middle School,10625 S.W. 35th Ave.
Multnomah County has two public budget hearings remaining, on May 22 at the East County building, 600 N.E. Eighth St.in Gresham; and on May 29 at IRCO,10301 N.E. Glisan St.in Portland. Both meetings begin at 6 p.m.
TUESDAY, APRIL 30, 2013 – Portland Mayor Charlie Hales has released his proposed budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which addresses the $21.5 million predicted shortfall and realigns the city budget to reflect the challenges and opportunities of the years ahead.
“This is a tough budget for a tough year,” Hales said. “People will be laid off. Popular programs will be eliminated. I understand the human cost of these reductions. And we have tried to cut with as little harm as possible. But this fiscal crisis was also our best chance to build a budget based on Portland’s future and not just a carry-forward of its past.”
To deal with the $21.5 million shortfall, the budget calls for eliminating 182.5 full-time equivalent positions throughout the city; realizing PERS savings recently approved by the 2013 Oregon Legislature; asking each bureau to base its budget on 90 percent of its current cost of services; and reducing the cost-of-living adjustments for all non-Fire Bureau employees by one-half, saving $1.7 million. Furthermore, non-represented employees will have this reduced COLA delayed for six months, saving an additional $300,000.
Other major changes in the budget include:
• Reducing the Portland Police Bureau by 55 positions. The mayor also proposes roughly $707,000 in one-time “bridge funding” to keep senior personnel in position until they retire, and thus not laying off recently hired, younger, more diverse, police officers to achieve the position reduction.
The budget largely safeguards the patrol officers, gang enforcement and neighborhood response team positions in the Police Bureau. It maintains most of the city’s dedicated school resource officers. It keeps most of the property crimes unit, which had been listed for elimination under the Police Bureau’s original budget proposal.
But among the tough decisions was the elimination of a popular program: the horse patrol.
The budget also would eliminate city funding for Multnomah County’s Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center, shifting full funding responsibility for this mental health program to the county.
• Restructuring the Portland Fire & Rescue Bureau by eliminating 41.8 FTE staff positions; eliminating four standard engine or truck companies and establishing four two-person Rapid Response Vehicle, or RRV, companies, integrating them into regular operations in high call volume areas.
The mayor’s budget rejected a proposal from the bureau to close up to seven fire stations. Under Hales’ proposed budget, all stations would remain open.
• Keeping the city’s water and sewer rate increases below 5 percent, combined. The outcome would be an increase of an estimated $4.13 per month for the average single-family bill. When Hales took office, water and sewer rates both had been proposed to increase by around 7.8 percent each. The mayor worked with both bureaus to keep rate increases as low as possible.
• Reducing management and overhead costs across the city’s bureaucracy, including City Hall offices and many of the city’s bureaus.
• The city would operate with a $3 million contingency fund. Last year, the city began with a $1.4 million contingency fund, but quickly drained most of that money before the first month of the fiscal year was over.
PROGRAMS FUNDED, NOT FUNDED
Among the programs that remain fully or partially funded under the mayor’s proposals:
• The Parks-operated SUN schools and David Douglas SUN school.
• Safety resource officers at schools
• The East Portland Action Plan
• The Safety Net collective of programs
• City funding to continue TriMet’sYouthPass
• The Multnomah Youth Commission
•Portland Community College’s Future Connect scholarship program
• The Hooper detoxification center and the CHIERS program to pick up intoxicated people encountered in public areas
• Southeast Works
• Neighborhood tree planting
• Graffiti removal
•VOZ Day Labor Center
• Sunday Parkways
“The hardest part of the budget was picking those programs we just cannot fund this year,” Hales said. “In most cases, it was picking one great program over another great program. There are no easy answers.”
Those programs facing elimination in his proposed budget include:
• Buckman Pool
• Pass-through funding for Multnomah County’s SUN Schools
• CASHOregon– a program for filing tax returns for low-income Oregonians
• A needle exchange program
• The annual Symphony In The Park
• A Restorative Justice program in Parkrose
PHILOSOPHY OF THE BUDGET
Mayor Hales stressed one theme in his proposed budget: Creating a more stable budget foundation.
Beyond the $3 million contingency fund for the coming year, Hales also said he would look to increase that further in coming budget cycles. “At $3 million, our contingency is less than 1 percent of the general fund. That’s still far too small. But it’s a start,” he said.
Hales’ budget also includes:
• “Bridge funding” to keep younger, more diverse workers on staff until senior employees can retire. “We have worked hard these last few years to draw a workforce that better reflects the diversity of our community. We do not want to lay that group off now,” Hales said.
• A $1 million innovation fund, to be awarded to bureau directors who find creative ways to provide city services more effectively or with less money. The fund would go to front the start-up cost of any such proposals.
• Adopting the recommendation from a City Council subcommittee to study and modify the ratio of managers-to-workers throughout the bureaus, in hopes of reducing the number of manager positions.
• Reducing the use of “one time” funding for ongoing programs. Hales has reined in a longstanding practice of providing funds for a specific program through a one-time allocation, but then doing so again and again.
“It’s about aligning our hearts and our pocketbooks,” he said. “If a program is important, then it should be funded and built into the city’s budget. Period. It shouldn’t have to hope that the City Council can dig up funds year after year from an arbitrary source.”
• The elimination of bureau-funded positions within commissioners’ offices. In the past, the staffs of mayor and commission offices have been partially funded by money allocated to bureaus. “I want to ‘true-up’ the commissioners’ offices: Not to cut their staff, but to make their budgets transparent and real.”
Hales cut the size of the mayor’s staff almost in half at the beginning of this year, and proposes reallocating a portion of those savings to maintain funding for commissioners’ offices after the elimination of “off-budget” bureau-funded positions.
The city has created an electronic "Suggestion Box" to solicit ideas for the budget.
FRIDAY, APRIL 26 2013 -- The city of Portland will hold three forums to hear citizens’ input on city spending in May, before the City Council adopts the 2013-14 budget.
Mayor Charlie Hales, city commissioners and city staff will listen to residents’ ideas on potential budget cuts and spending increases.
Those will be:
• Thursday, May 16, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Council Chambers, City Hall, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave.
• Saturday, May 18, 3 to 5 p.m., Warner Pacific College, 2219 S.E. 68th Ave.
• Thursday, May 23, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Jackson Middle School, 10625 S.W. 35th Ave.
To review budgets requested by city bureaus: www.portlandoregon.gov/cbo/article/437463
The city is looking at a shortfall of $21.5 million. Want to help?
Suggestions are needed on ways to trim money or to generate more revenue. Send suggestions via e-mail to:
Subject Line: Budget Help
Copies of the proposed budgets are in the link below. The budget calendar can be found by clicking here.