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Hall Monitor

Budget Bust



You know that feeling when you reach for your wallet, go for that $20 you're sure is in there, and discover that you've only got a fiver after—oh, right, you forgot—going out the night before?

That's pretty much how the city council's feeling lately. The commissioners have split into teams to dig through bureaus' budget requests, and just got word that instead of an extra $7.8 million to pass around—the figure from December's revenue projections—there's only $5 million in additional ongoing funds for the council to divvy up.

Hey... where'd that extra cash go?

The economy ate it. "Revenues are down $3.1 million on lower interest, transient lodging [hotel taxes], and business license revenue forecasts," according to the city's Office of Management and Finance March financial update. "This revised forecast reflects an economic environment that has deteriorated markedly since last December." You don't say.

The good news is, the city doesn't have to start making budget cuts just yet, since Portland is currently doing a bit better than the rest of the country. (Next year could get interesting, if the economy doesn't recover, pronto. I can't wait to see new city commissioners and a new mayor deal with the end of Portland's years of budget surpluses.)

Thankfully, deep down in the couch cushions, the city actually found some extra change for one-time projects: An extra $1.7 million (score!), bringing the one-time funds total to just over $28 million.

Now, the city council just has to figure out what gets funded next year. There are all kinds of requests on the table, from a quarter-million-dollar "Vera Katz Park" next to the Armory, to $50,000 to continue the Racial Profiling Committee. Commissioner Randy Leonard wants $1.3 million for his Project 57, Commissioner Erik Sten is hoping for a little over $4.2 million for his Schools, Family, and Housing program, and Commissioner Dan Saltzman's dream of opening a one-stop domestic violence resource center carries a $2.1 million price tag.

There's not enough in the cushions (or the depleted wallet) to fund it all, though. The city's financial planning division, under the eyes of the mayor, analyzed the requested, and made recommendations that largely axed arts-related programs (sorry, Commissioner Sam Adams!) and saved things like $250,000 for "Vision to Action" grants. (The domestic violence center didn't make the list of recommendations, but a smaller Schools, Family, and Housing package did, as did Project 57 funding.)

But the most exciting thing to make it through to the recommendation list is nearly $4 million in both one-time and ongoing funding for economic development, via the Portland Development Commission. There, a hotshot economic development director by the name of Erin Flynn—she landed in Portland from Boston last summer—will reportedly spend it creating something Portland could use a lot more of. No, not streetcars, silly. Jobs!


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