Portland’s City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a $5.4 billion budget for next year that will expand and add programs to address homelessness and public safety and increase the city’s workforce by hundreds of people.
The 5-0 vote came less than a week after Mayor Ted Wheeler unveiled a proposed spending package bolstered by a windfall of cash unlikely to fill city coffers again in the future.
An infusion of $104 million in federal American Rescue Plan dollars will help stave off the across-the-board bureau cuts ordered by Wheeler the previous two years and provide one-time investments in crime reduction, assisting people living on the streets and aiding struggling small businesses.
Meanwhile, the mayor’s budget spreads an unexpected surplus of $34 million in business tax revenue across two dozen initiatives that range from creating an East Portland investment strategy to hiring more 911 operators to beefing up the city’s climate action goals.
Overall, city agencies have been authorized to add 203 new full-time employees, documents show, more than half of them in the police and fire bureaus.
“We’re providing the resources to work quickly, compassionately and creatively to meet the urgent needs of the Portland community,” said Wheeler of the spending package during Wednesday’s council meeting.
Documents show the city will spend $717.2 million in discretionary funds, commonly called the general fund, a 9% increase from the current $659 million.
Roughly 70% of the city’s general fund budget goes to just four agencies: the police and fire bureaus, Portland Parks & Recreation and the homeless services agency jointly run by Portland and Multnomah County.
The mayor’s budget provides $5.8 million to buy land for affordable housing and about $36 million to equip and operate six so-called safe rest villages equipped with group laundry, hygiene, kitchen and storage facilities where previously homeless people can stay in tiny homes or RVs.
Expanded programs include dozens of additional unarmed civilian public safety officers at the Portland Police Bureau and round-the-clock operations of the city’s unarmed Portland Street Response team that is dispatched to calls about mental health and similar crises that occur outdoors.
Wheeler’s budget will also provide temporary funding of $2.6 million to fast-track hiring and training of police recruits so they would be ready to go when veteran officers retire.
The City Council is scheduled to take a final vote on the spending plan in mid-June.
— Shane Dixon Kavanaugh; 503-294-7632
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