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City Council unanimously passes next year's budget

Mayor Charlie Hales smoothed things over with his City Council colleagues and supported their substitute budget for the next year Wednesday morning, allowing it to be passed unanimously.

A majority of the council previously said they could not support the Business License Fee increase in Hales' proposed budget intended to raise $8.7 million for police and homeless services. Emotions ran high at Thursday evening hearing on the proposed budget when Hales continued to press for the increase. Hales was unable to change their minds, however, setting up the possibility he could be the lone "no" vote on the final budget of his administration.

But Wednesday's hearing was much calmer. Although Hales continued to say the city needs to raise more revenue, he acknowledged that 90 percent of the budget was what he originally proposed. The biggest difference was cutting $3 million in increased police salary and benefits. All of the other commissioners agreed the spending might eventually be justified — but it requires more study because the cost is projected to increase to $9 million in two more years.

In the end, the council restored some Hales' original request that had been cut in the substitute budget, including approximately $2 million for beginning to implement the police body camera program, $75,000 to encourage more public benefit "B Corporations" in Portland, and $150,000 for two more park rangers for the east side.

"I brought up new revenue because I believe the city is going to need it. That subject must continue to be discussed while I'm still here and after I leave," Hales said before casting the final "yes" to approve the final $501.4 million budget the takes effect on July 1.

As expected, commissioners Nick Fish, Steve Novick and Dan Saltzman supported the substitute budget after previously saying that could not support increasing business taxes when city revenues are already increasing to record levels as the economy recovers. Commissioner Amanda Fritz also voted "yes" after revealing for the first time that she had concerns about the cumulative cost of the police salary and benefit increases.

The issue could return to the council later this year, however. The city is currently in negotiations with the Portland Police Association to resolve a number of ongoing disputes, including a series of workplace grievances and the fate of the current rule in the police contract that allows officers involved in deadly force incidents to wait 48 hours before talking to investigators. Salary and benefit increases may be required to achieve such a "universal settlement," if the talks continue.