Defining New Budget Priorities at City Hall

By Don MacGillivray

Mayor Charlie Hales campaigned on “common sense” priorities for the City of Portland. In the next three months the City will find out what this means. Mayor Hales has been through the budget process before so he knows the tricks of the trade. This will also test the public’s priorities and the willingness of the City to listen and act appropriately.

During the campaign, our new Mayor made the following promises: 1) we need to focus on the basics – our children, our streets, our local economy, 2) we will focus on neighborhood business development by expanding the existing Main Streets program, 3) we will speak out and support our local schools, and 4) we will make a systematic effort to prioritize the maintenance of our city street system.

The Mayor and the Council will go through the Portland budget line-by-line to reduce overhead and put city funds into direct service activities and fundamental maintenance. The Mayor warned that no program is safe and that cuts will be painful. The total City budget is approximately $3.5 billion and the General Fund is one seventh of that amount or approximately $500 million. The City is expecting a budget shortfall of $25 million (5% of the General Fund) and bureaus are preparing to make cuts of up to 10%.

Mayor Hales suggested that the $395,000 for summer youth internships and job training managed by the non-profit Worksystems Inc. be cut. This decision was reversed by City Council within days after the announcement.

The Mayor has assigned all city bureaus to himself for the next few months while the new budget is drafted. This will allow him to better understand the current status of all the city bureaus as well as allowing Commissioners to act without the bias of being responsible for the various bureaus assigned to them. It is also hoped that this will create a unified City Council.

Below are some of the cuts and reductions from six of the twenty-six bureaus and offices of interest to the public totaling $37.3 million or 3/4ths of its requested cuts.

• The Bureau of Parks and Recreation cuts may have the most impact on SE Portland. Their Budget reductions include the elimination of the Dutch Elm Disease prevention program, a program with a long history and very important to the residents of Ladd’s  Addition. The closing of Buckman Pool, that is in the basement of Buckman School, is also proposed. This facility is threatened whenever there are budget reductions and it has been successfully defended in the past by Buckman Community Association and the Buckman School PTA.

• The Office of Neighborhood Involvement reductions include cuts to the Neighborhood Small Grants program, cuts to neighborhood communications, cuts in neighborhood outreach staff, elimination of two Crime Prevention positions, cuts in the Graffiti Removal Program and the elimination of the SUN program at three sites.

• The Bureau of Fire and Rescue will eliminate seven fire companies or fire stations. – $9.3 million.

• Police Bureau reductions include: inter-agency materials and service, staff in the traffic division, staff in the Neighborhood Resource Team, staff in the Gang-Enforcement Team, staff in the Family Services Division, elimination of the School Police program, elimination of the Property Crimes Investigation program, and elimination of the Mounted Patrol Unit.

• Housing Bureau reductions include critical programs serving low-income and homeless residents including the Clark Center in SE and the new Bud Clark Commons in Old Town.

• Bureau of Transportation reductions include various capital improvement projects for the Neighborhood and the Livable Streets program, in consulting services, capital improvements to bridges, signals, and street lights, support for the TriMet free rail zone, parking operations and enforcement, staff reductions for the Smart Trips program and Sunday Parkways, and the staff in the Street Preservation Program.

There are 26 bureau budgets with 1,942 pages of information about the City revenues and expenditures.

For greater detail the website with city budget info is: . Call 503.823.4000 and connect with persons that can answer your questions.


Calendar for FY 2013-14 Budget Process


Public Hearing on the City Budget   —  March 6

The City Budget Office’s Requested Budget reviews distributed to the Council  —  March 11

Public Hearing on the City Budget  —  March 12

Council work sessions on the Requested Budgets  —  March18 to April 5

Public Hearing on City the Budget   —  April 11

Budget Committee meeting where the Mayor presents his budget message   —  May 15

Budget Committee public hearing on the City budgets  —  May 16

Budget Committee action to approve the City budgets  —  May 29

Council action to adopt budget  —  June 20

Defining New Budget Priorities at City Hall

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