Mayor Charlie Hales told the City Council it could generate $1.8 million in additional general fund dollars by approving some of his proposes changes to Portland's urban renewal areas on Thursday.

Hales made the announcement during a council work session on the budget for the next fiscal year, which will take effect on July 1. Hales said the changes would also generate an additional $1.7 million for Multnomah County.

Among other things, Hales wants to shrink the boundaries of the River District URA that includes the Pearl District and Old Town/ Chinatown. He also wants to eliminate the Education URA around PSU but expand the North Macadam URA to the university's eastern boundary to help support it.

“We’ve used URAs as ATMs. They were never meant for that. They were meant to address blight, to create jobs, to create affordable housing, and to grow the tax base,” says Hales.

The council has to approve the changes to generate the additional general fund dollars, which has not spending restrictions.

"This plan protects affordable housing. It gets money back on to the taxing districts. It shrinks the percentage of the city locked up in Urban Renewal. And it changes the budget picture, for the better, right now," says Hales.

The council currently expects to have about $6 million in additional general fund dollars next fiscal years. Bureaus overseen by council members have requested around $32 million in additional general fund spending, however. Hales proposal would raise the available money to $7.8 million.

Hales met with Multnomah County Chair Madrigal before the work session to brief her on the proposal. They have been discussing how to better divide program responsibilities between the two governments.

Hales has also discussed the proposal with the League of Women Voters, which has been critical of how the city's historic approach to its URAs.

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