Mayor's proposed budget focuses on homelessness, housing, community policing

Wheeler's budget proposal: Police, homeless

PORTLAND, Ore. – Mayor Ted Wheeler on Monday announced his proposed 2017-18 budget and it adds new positions and initiatives to address issues of homelessness, community policing, evictions, and potential disasters.

The mayor proposed $38,983,654 in specific initiatives. The overall budget for the city of Portland is much larger and includes state and federal funding. This year's proposed budget is $4.7 billion, about $400 million more than last year. The city's general fund budget is projected at $622 million.  

“Portland’s economy is booming, with unemployment at its lowest point in decades and another record year for business license tax revenues,” said Mayor Wheeler. “However, recent City budget trends reveal the need for a prudent fiscal approach and a renewed focus on the core responsibilities of City governance.”

The city budget director said the city is faced with a $1.8 million shortfall, primarily due to a settlement with the Portland police union, funding the Joint Office of Homeless Services and the city financing elections. Another expected $2 million shortfall will likely come from the CEO tax, which was passed by city council but will be impossible to implement if the federal government decides not to require businesses to release the difference in CEO and employee pay.  

The city is projected to have a $17.1 million one-time surplus. City policy is to spend one-time surpluses on infrastructure and other one-time investments.

The mayor’s budget would get rid of some longtime Portland institutions, such as the mounted patrol, the Portland Fire & Rescue Dive Team and the currently closed Buckman Pool. The budget would also delay implementing body cameras for police, saving $1.2 million, while a policy for the cameras is developed.

"This budget refocuses us on the services I think the community wants us to see," Wheeler said during the Monday press conference.

The mayor’s budget proposes to add staff and programs, including:

  • Four park rangers to patrol the Springwater Corridor and East Portland parks, add five rangers to central business district
  • Twelve Community Service Officers to “engage directly with the community” and conduct proactive police work.
  • A new initiative called “Build Portland,” which would cost $600 million over 20 years to upgrade roads, parks and other infrastructure. Mayor Wheeler proposed to invest $50 million this year to kick off the program. The city will pay back debt from Build Portland through tax increment financing.
  • A new office called the Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs. The office will analyze data from eviction notices and help people who are being evicted or at risk of eviction.
  • Increase the budget for the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management by 25 percent to help Portland’s preparedness for a natural or man-made disaster.
  • Add staff to manage a technology disaster plan and the Smart Cities initiative, which improves the city’s digital technologies.
  • Allows the Portland Bureau of Transportation to use private contractors to plow snow.

During the budget process, Mayor Wheeler reassigned all city bureaus to himself. The bureaus will be reassigned after the budget is approved.

The mayor's budget is not set in stone. The city council will hear public testimony on May 11. The budget is scheduled to be adopted on May 26.    

© 2017 KGW-TV


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