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After months of public input, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick proposed a Portland Street Fund that will more than double the City’s pavement maintenance budget. The Street Fund investments will also make it safer for children to walk to school and for seniors to walk to transit stops, by filling in missing sidewalks and making crossing improvements (such as flashing beacons) at dangerous intersections. Just under 40 percent of the first three years of safety improvements will be made in East Portland. Examples of the safety projects that will be funded include:
The fund will provide about $15 million a year for preventive maintenance for street pavement in the first three years – investments that are estimated to prevent the need for more than $650 million in costly rebuilds, over a ten year period. Portland uses the StreetSaver computer model, a model used by many jurisdictions to forecast pavement condition. According to the model, if street maintenance is funded at the current budget level, 56 percent of busy streets are forecast to be in fair or better condition in 10 years. With the Portland Street Fund, 67 percent of busy streets would be in fair or better condition in 10 years, according to the same computer model.
Businesses will pay between $3 and $144 a month, with a 50 percent discount for non-profits, under an approach developed by a business workgroup, which included representatives from Venture Portland and the Portland Business Alliance. Individuals will pay rates related to their ability to pay. For example:
The tax has a $5,000 per child deduction. For example, a couple making $65,000, with two children, would have an adjusted income of $55,000 and would pay at the $5 per month level. Higher income Portlanders will pay more, with couples making more than $350,000 paying $75 a month. "Which is still less than the average bill for cable television," Novick said.
"In addition, because this is a local income tax, these payments will be deductible on your State and Federal income tax forms, which means people who itemize deductions will be out of pocket less than the face value of the tax," Novick added. "For example, most people making between $75,000 and $100,000 a year itemize deductions, and pay a marginal Federal tax rate of 15% and a marginal State rate of 9%. Deductibility means that they'd actually only be out of pocket $7.60 a month."
The Portland Street Fund results from the Our Streets PDX transportation funding conversation that started in January. The City Council considered a Transportation User Fee in May, but decided to seek more public input on ways to reduce charges for low-income residents and businesses, and provide a discount for non-profits.
“After months of thoughtful public discussion, we have a proposal that begins to address our longstanding maintenance and safety needs,” Hales said. “No one likes to pay more taxes, but we certainly can’t count on Congress to come and save us. The Portland Street Fund raises enough money to make a difference and provides the resources the community says we urgently need.”
"The Portland Street Fund is a very different proposal than the City Council considered in May," Commissioner Novick said.
“Thanks to the input and hard work of three committees over the summer, we have a much better proposal now,” Novick said. “The Portland Street Fund is more affordable for middle-class families. We protect low-income residents with an exemption. And we have developed much more detailed information on the investments we will make."
The fund will allocate 56 percent of net revenue to maintenance, and 44 percent to safety projects, with the understanding that many projects accomplish both goals.
“Preventive maintenance saves money in the long run,” Transportation Director Leah Treat said. “The Portland Street Fund will provide $45 million in the first three years, and at that rate after 10 years, we can avoid spending more than $650 million in more expensive road rebuilds. Our crews are working hard to provide the right treatment at the right place, at the right time.”
The Portland City Council will conduct a first reading and public hearing on the proposal at 2 p.m., Nov. 20 at City Council Chambers. A second reading and vote are expected at 10 a.m., Dec. 3.