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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mayor's Budget Unveiled: Here's Our Live Blog

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 11:14 AM

halesbynumbers.jpg
  • Joseph Harmon
Mayor Charlie Hales is unveiling his stab at a budget plan meant to close a $21.5 million deficit right now. It's filled with major job cuts—182.5 positions, including 55 police officers and almost 42 fire bureau positions.. And it would get rid of the police bureau's mounted patrol, Buckman Pool and funding for the county's Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center.

Significantly, it keeps open all fire stations. And it appears to mark a major victory for the safety net campaign working to protect social services and housing programs. City-operated SUN schools will stay open, and city funding for the CHIERS van and Hooper Detox center will remain in place.

Other highlights? The city's getting a larger contingency fund: $3 million.

"It's not a shoebox of money but it's a real emergency fund," Hales says. "That's why it's there."

And utility rate increases (for water and sewers) will be kept to a combined increase of less than 5 percent—down from 7.8 percent hikes proposed by each bureau. The mayor also delivered on a pledge to minimize layoffs of newly hired cops, finding onetime bridge funding to let the bureau reduce with vacancies.

He's also keeping school resources officers and keeping most of the property crimes unit in place.

"We're not going to be able to keep our horse patrol unit, as much as we all love it."

The mayor says his goal was to craft a "humane but responsible" budget. He's also hitting on his goal of getting his fellow commissioners to serve as a "board of directors"—highlighting their work in finding savings in overtime and in reductions to management-level staffers.

"We're directing the fire bureau to make more use of four person rescue units. They're staffed with two EMTs, not four," Hales says. "That will make a much better result for our neighborhoods and move the fire bureau into its core business, which is medical response."

He's also signaling the need for more work with the county.

"There are a number of programs that are shared between the city and the county," Hales says.

Update 11:25 PM: KGW asks why this is all "austerity." Hales says he's tapping, responsibly, some of the city's reserve fund. "We're coming out of a difficult recession," Hales says on revenue. "This doesn't feel to me the time for a general tax increase in the city of Portland."

Those are his closing remarks.

Update 11:23 PM: "I'd have liked them to be zero," Hales says when asked about water and sewer rate increases. Hales also says he doesn't fret for the safety of the city based on his proposed cuts.

"They're navigation documents," he says of budgets. "I've started taking it personally... I never thought that I'd do that. Every single line item is important. These are real people we'll be laying off. These are real services we won't be doing."

Update 11:20 PM: "You can't cut" other bureaus that much without cutting police and fire bureaus. "The principle of shared sacrifice applied to all bureaus," Hales says. This year's budget marks a shift from past budgets, when police and firefighters were spared pain historically spread around, at a deeper level, to other bureaus. Hales says these cuts won't hurt patrol staffing and won't damage progress, as he sees it, in the bureau's attempts to mend its relationship with the community.

Update 11:18 PM: The final number of layoffs, thanks to vacancies, could be under 100. Hales is highlighting housing budget wins: women's shelters and the Clark Center, foreclosure counseling and other programs are in. It's close to the $1.1 million in add backs the Housing Bureau wanted from the general fund.

Update 11:16 PM: Bureaus did a good job of separating "nice tos" and got tos," Hales says to a question from Aaron Mesh on "Washington Monuments"—programs bureaus historically suggest knowing they'll never be whacked.

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