PORTLAND, Ore. — The city of Portland has not fulfilled some of its commitments after voters approved a 10-cent gas tax to fund street repair and safety projects, according to a city audit released Wednesday.
Portland voters narrowly passed the 4-year gas tax in 2016 to pay for the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Fixing Our Streets program. PBOT planned to split tax money between street repair and safety projects.
The city council also adopted a Heavy Vehicle Use Tax to ensure that heavy truck owners paid into the program. Portland’s only truck stop is not required to charge the gas tax.
The audit looked at the project commitments, the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax, program oversight and audits, and the promised spending split.
The audit found that while the planned and completed projects were consistent with those that were promised to voters, most projects were behind schedule. Two thirds of the projects scheduled to start before 2019 had not started.
Most of the completed projects were on budget, the audit said.
Truck owners did not pay their share, the audit found.
Tax revenues from heavy vehicle owners were below the $2.5 million that experts said was needed to fund their share of the program in its first year. The city council in 2018 eliminated the requirement that the tax rate be adjusted to meet the 4-year, $10 million revenue goal, out of concern that the higher tax rate would cause more businesses to request exemptions and burden those paying the tax.
The audit also found that monitoring and oversight was not effective, PBOT did not fulfill the city council’s commitment to obtain annual audits and that it was hard to determine whether PBOT maintained the spending split between street repair and safety projects.
The audit recommends the bureau make changes to improve program oversight and meet public expectations. Read the full list of recommendations here
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who oversees PBOT, said in a statement that she agreed with the findings and is prepared to work with the program’s oversight committee to address the concerns.