Preschools, beloved horses on city budget chopping block

Budget could hit preschool and police horses

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A lot of people are upset at the list of budget cuts the City of Portland is considering.

Some much-loved programs are on the chopping block, such as the Portland police horses and 12 publicly funded preschools that families depend on.

Peninsula Park Community preschool on North Rosa Parks Way is one of those 12 in jeopardy. They are run by the parks bureau, and the money comes from the general fund. According to city documents, cutting all 12 schools would save $1.5 million.

Five-year-old Sebastian Wagner has learned colors, numbers and sharing at Peninsula Park. His mom, Amber Elf-Wagner, pays $150 a month for him to go three days a week.

"It's incredibly affordable which is incredibly wonderful and so I think it means a lot to a lot of people," she said.

Every city department has been asked for a list of potential cuts for this next budget. City documents say because there are so many other private options and few "children of color" who use these city-run schools, it could make sense to close them.

"It's really kind of stressful and it seems like it would really hurt our communities to see it go away. Families depend on it to have a safe place for their kids," said Elf-Wagner.

Horses aren't safe from the budget ax either. The Portland Police's Mounted Patrol Unit could be gone for good. One million dollars could be saved by selling off the 8 horses and re-assigning the 5 trained officers who ride them.

"It would be a grave mistake," said developer Robert Ball, who is also president of the Friends of the Mounted Patrol non-profit.

His group helped save the unit in 2014, by raising $400,000 to offset costs. Ball, a reserve officer himself, says the horses are a crucial ice breaker in a time Portland needs a stronger connection with police.

"When you bring a horse through, people come and they clamor, both adults and children, that's why we think it's just wrong for the council to once again to think about doing this," he said.

The city admits it's a much-loved program, connecting with 15,000 people every year, and patrolling 30 events. Still, it calls the horses non-essential.

"You're seeing people come into council meetings and they're protesting, and protesting in front of council members' houses. what does that tell you? That tells you that trust is broken down," Ball said. "So why get rid of the very things that give and build that trust? We just think it doesn't make sense."

The Friends of the Mounted Patrol and parents of preschoolers urge concerned citizens to make their voice heard by testifying at public hearings and emailing city commissioners directly.

Mayor Ted Wheeler has to approve the budget in May.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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