I was going to title this blog post "Comments ...", but when comments run close to 15 minutes and are read from a script, it's a speech.
So, my comments/speech on the 2013 - 14 City Budget are posted here.
The short version: I can't vote for a budget allocating $397 million in discretionary spending, that cuts $117,000 (24%) from services to children and women escaping human trafficking. Especially when at the same time, the Portland Police Bureau is planning to cut 22%, four of 18 officers, from the Family Services Division that investigates child abuse, elder abuse, and domestic violence. We should prioritize spending to provide more support for the most vulnerable people in our community. While the Budget approved by the majority of the Council today does that, in part, by allocating full funding to the Housing Safety Net, the Approved Budget reduces the City's commitment to resolving the horrors of prostitution.
Commissioner Saltzman asked a good question at the end of the hearing. In response, we learned that the current General Fund total for 2012 - 13 is approximately $502 million, the new total General Fund is $493 million. In "discretionary resources", current is $413 million, upcoming year $397 million. So in six months, the gap has gone from $25 million to $16 million. Some reasons for that are the state PERS legislation; resolution of the CenturyLink law suit confirming the City's right to equalize telephone taxes on land lines, as enacted by the 2012 Council; and expected agreements from City unions to accept a lower Cost of Living Adjustment than the inflation index. I was disappointed the Council was not more involved in deciding which cuts to add back to the funding list, after it became clear the deficit was less extreme than first appeared.
There may be some minor changes to the Approved Budget when it is formally adopted in June. Questions were raised at the hearing about cuts to City Hall and Portland Building security staff, and also about adding another inspector for the Enhanced Rental Inspection program in East Portland. But for the most part, the 2013 - 14 City of Portland Budget is done. Congratulations to Mayor Hales and his staff, the City Budget Office, and everyone who advocated successfully for funding for jobs, programs, and services. Thank you to all who sent comments and participated in the six Community Budget events. Community involvement made many differences in which services will be provided starting in July.