Portland’s city council has approved close to $12 million in new one-time spending, because the city has more cash on hand than it projected when the council set the budget for the year.
In years like this when the local economy is growing, the council typically gets a little more money to work with in the fall.
Most of the one-time funding is going to a few big-ticket items.
The council has adopted a policy of investing at least half of its fall surplus dollars in infrastructure and maintenance projects.
This budget cycle, that infrastructure spending includes $4.9 million for the Portland Bureau of Transportation to replace an overpass in North Portland at 42nd Avenue and Lombard. The council also set aside $1 million for new emergency power supply systems for the city’s 911 call center and Justice Center.
The council split the remaining $5.9 million in one-time spending between dozens of different programs.
The Joint Office of Homeless Services is getting $1.7 million to spend on permanent shelter space, emergency winter shelter operations and an additional annual point in time homelessness count.
Most controversially, $2 million in a city contingency fund is being earmarked for the Portland Police Bureau. That’s enough to fund 20 patrol officer positions, which the bureau says it may need to start hiring soon to help fill vacancies as officers are projected to retire over the next five years.
The budget proposal also initially included $346,513 to fund a deputy police chief position and an administrative support staff person at the police bureau, positions requested by new chief Danielle Outlaw.
But council members withdrew their support for that request in response to objections from the public, and said Outlaw would have to find money for that position from within the Police Bureau’s existing budget.
Commissioner Amanda Fritz said while the council was unwilling to allocate new funding for the deputy chief position, she still believes it is necessary.
“I do support Chief Outlaw having the right to have somebody at her right hand, who she knows, and she knows has her back. And that doesn’t happen at the expense of demoting one of the assistant chiefs,” Fritz said.
Dozens of other city programs received smaller amounts of money. Commissioner Dan Saltzman said the council was guilty of spending the windfall on pet projects.
“This is not how it should be,” Saltzman said. “I’m as guilty as everyone else up here, but there’s got to be a better way to make sure that these appropriations are subject to more rigor than they are in the bump process.”
In spite of his objections, Saltzman voted with the rest of the council, and they unanimously approved the spending plan.