Portland City Manager Jon Jennings presented his recommended municipal budget for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19), which begins July 1, 2018, to the City Council at its April 9, 2018 meeting. The $247 million budget results in a 2.6% city-side property tax rate increase or $69.55 for an average homeowner with a $240,000 home. Despite some positive budget drivers, including a $100 million property valuation growth and an increase in some revenues, the budget had to include a number of cuts in order to meet Council’s guidance of a property tax rate increase between 2.5% - 2.9%.
While the $100 million in new property valuation may seem like a significant amount, it only results in an additional $1.1 million in tax revenue for municipal use, and is only a 0.128% overall increase to our FY18 valuation of approximately $7.8 billion. This means it can only fund a fraction of the cost increases and built-in budget challenges in FY19, many of which are outside of the City’s control.
Reflecting on the budget process, City Manager Jon Jennings offered, “I take my responsibilities to the Council and the taxpayers of the city very seriously. The Council provided guidance for a tax rate increase between 2.5% to 2.9% increase. As we have discussed on many occasions, we are all concerned about the affordability of the city and government can be a driver of costs that make it unaffordable to live in Portland. That is why it is important for City staff to meet the guidance provided by the City Council in order to limit the tax impact due to the drivers outlined in the budget.”
Jennings continued, “I firmly believe that we cannot focus on one piece of government to the detriment of another. Unfortunately, this budget is not a step forward, rather it is status quo. The cuts and things we had to set aside would be much worse had we not already put in place a number of cost control measures.”
As in past years, the City Manager’s budget goals include focusing on improving the city structurally in order to have resources in the future to look at more aspirational projects. This is seen through finding efficiencies, and improving technology and innovation in order to reduce costs, emphasize customer service, and fulfill the commitment to getting things done on a timely basis. Infrastructure needs that were set aside for too long also continue to be a priority.
Jennings added, “The most difficult cuts to make are always the ones involving staffing. As we developed this budget, we had to make some very tough choices to keep Portland affordable while at the same time trying to maintain the level of services we provide for our residents and businesses, and address a few items within our key priorities. Overall, the budget I presented contains a reduction of approximately 13 general fund positions.”
The City Manager’s complete FY19 recommended budget can be read online here.
A few of the highlights include:
Parking: The budget includes a one dollar increase in parking garage hourly rates at the two City-owned and operated garages at Elm Street and Spring Street, and a $10 increase in the monthly fee. The budget also includes a 25-cent increase in the parking meter hourly rate, bringing the meter cost to $1.50 an hour, which is in line with most cities.
Public Works: This budget includes funding for two new electric vehicles and an effort to convert any gas/diesel minor equipment to electric models.
Parks, Recreation & Facilities and Waterfront Division: This budget includes the separation of the Waterfront and Public Buildings Divisions from Parks and Recreation given the activity and growth on our waterfront. This separation allows us to create three new full-time employees, covered by projected revenues, to better manage this activity and attract further growth.
Planning & Urban Development: One major initiative within the the Planning and Urban Development budget includes an additional $150,000 toward the rewrite of Chapter 14, the City’s Land Use / Zoning code. Known as ReCode Portland, this initiative will help the city revamp its zoning to better reflect today’s environment.
Public Health: Our Public Health Division received a new Health Research and Equity Coordinator position within the FY19 budget. This was a position requested by our new Public Health Director and will be used for research and analysis of public health data in conjunction with several of our community partners.
Legal & Risk Management: This budget includes the creation of a full-time risk manager within our Legal Office so that we can proactively manage our safety, risk and liability concerns. I feel this is critical in order for us to better control our costs given our self-insured status.
Assessors: The City has begun the process of a citywide revaluation, taking steps to reduce the overall costs of the process by utilizing oblique aerial photography to capture building footprint changes. The process will continue in FY19 and is being funded by usage of surplus fund balance appropriated during FY18. However, if the City Council chooses not to appropriate approximately $1.055M of unassigned fund balance to fund the City wide revaluation, the FY19 operating budget request would have been approximately 13 cents higher (a 3.8% tax rate increase vs the 2.6% increase as currently proposed).
Upcoming Council & Public Review of FY19 City CIP & Municipal Budget
Finance Committee Meetings:
All meetings are in Room 209 of City Hall at 5:30 PM unless otherwise noted
4/11/18 - Final Action on FY19 CIP (5:00PM - City Council Chambers)
4/12/18 - FY19 City Manager Recommended Budget (Overview + Assessors, Fire & Jetport budgets)
4/17/18 - FY19 City Manager Recommended Budget Review Continued
4/26/18 - Joint City/School Meeting - FY19 City Manager Recommended Budget Review Continued + FY19 Portland Public Schools FY19 Budget *Mayor Strimling to give his budget comments at this meeting.
5/3/18 - FY19 City Manager Recommended Budget Review - Public Hearing and Vote
The City Council will hold a workshop to discuss the budget on May 14 at 4:00 PM ahead of the Council meeting at 5:30 PM in which there will be a first-read of the budget and a public hearing. Additional public comment will be taken at its second read and final vote at the May 21 meeting at 5:30 PM.