Wheeler proposes budget with boosts in taxes, cops
Mayor Ted Wheeler has proposed a $15.3 million boost in business license taxes while increasing efforts to help the homeless and improve public safety.
"My budget increases funding to prevent homelessness, provide shelter for those living outside in the elements, and — most importantly — guide people into permanent housing while connecting them to the services they need to get off and stay off the streets," said Mayor Wheeler.
Among other things, his recommended budget adds 58 new police officers to the Portland Police Bureau, saying they are needed to curb response times, reduce officer fatigue and improve community policing.
Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner says the union representing rank-and-file bureau employees supports the proposed budget.
"This is a first step towards addressing the systemic inadequate staffing issue in the Bureau. This is a move in the right direction to reach PPB's primary goals: responding to calls for service in a timely manner, investigating crimes, proactively policing our neighborhoods, and continuing to build on the community policing model established in the 1990s.
"In the years to come, this organization faces record retirements that will need to be addressed in future budget years. Turner added, "As President of the PPA, I am hopeful that the rest of City Council will continue to work with the Mayor and Chief Outlaw towards long-term solutions for the Police Bureau's staffing crisis," said in an email statement.
Wheeler's budget requires a majority vote of the Portland City Council, which will hear public testimony on Wheeler's proposals — as will a city budget committee. Individual City Commissioners will be able to propose changes as well. The budget is expected to receive a final vote on May 18.
Wheeler's budget is supported by the Portland Business Alliance, which agreed business license taxes should be increased from 2.2 to 2.6 percent.
The budget also shows Wheeler is throwing his weight behind neighborhood and business interests that have been advocating for new police. The police bureau had earlier requested a boost of more than 90 new cops, and the city budget office had recommended 14 positions.
"The Portland Business Alliance partnered with the Mayor on the proposed increase to the business license tax in his proposed budget. The Alliance has expressed willingness to step up on this tax increase in order to help address Portland's top issue, homelessness, which impacts businesses and livability throughout the city. Importantly, the additional revenue will be targeted toward measurable outcomes. These include stabilizing and increasing funding for the Joint Office of Homeless Services, adding the ability to place 240 additional families and individuals into permanent housing, and expanding mental health caseload capacity by 50 percent. Small businesses will also benefit from additional revenue focused on supporting underrepresented business owners, including communities of color, low income residents and women, as well as an increase in the owners' compensation deduction on the business license tax. We are pleased to work collaboratively with the mayor's office to address these critical issues and appreciate that the mayor shares our focus on economic competitiveness and concerns related potential additional proposals to raise business taxes," PBA President and CEO Sandra McDonough said.
Wheeler budget highlights
Wheeler's proposed budget also includes:
• Increased general fund spending of $14.5 million for the Portland Housing Bureau.
• $1.4 million for new dispatch and 911 logging system
• $5.5 million for new cops, including behavioral health specialists and civilian auditors.
• $500,000 for new vandal-proof lighting for Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade as well as $250,000 in ongoing funding for two permanent park rangers.
• A Bureau of Environmental Services rate hike of about 2.25 percent for the typical single-family household, funding seven positions.
• A Portland Water Bureau rate hike of 8.9 percent for the typical single-family household to support a new water filtration facility.
• A 5 percent General Fund cut to the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability
• A $300,000 increase in the Office of Neighborhood Involvement funding, including money for graffiti abatement.
• A nearly 5 percent boost to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, including money for maintenance, capital projects and traffic safety initiatives.
• A $22 million increase to the Office of Management & Finance budget, including money for tax collection and campsite cleanup.
• A yearly $200,000 reduction in the Work for Art program administered by the Regional Arts & Culture Council.