Thursday, May 26, 2011


Council approves budget
By Casey Conley
May 17, 2011 12:00 am

City councilors last night approved a $201 million budget for 2012 that retained core services and for the first time in three years did not include employee layoffs.

The unanimous vote comes a week after city voters approved an $89.4 million 2012 budget for Portland Schools.

Taken together, the $290 million city and school budget will bring a 2 percent property tax increase next year, raising the tax rate to $18.28 per $1,000 in assessed value. At that rate, the owner of a home valued at $200,000 would owe about $70 more next year.

One by one last night, city councilors praised the two-month budget process, the city staff who helped draft it, and the final result — which came as a stark contrast to recent budgets that included pay freezes, layoffs, widespread fee increases (parking meters, blue bags) and noticeable cuts to public services.

(Two years ago, two downtown fountains were shut off to save roughly $10,000. The Pullen Fountain, behind Central Fire Station, was later turned back on after a local horse owner complained).

Councilor Dave Marshall noted that the last three budgets, with 0 percent, 1 percent and 2 percent property tax increases, respectively, averaged out to a 1 percent property tax increase per year. The 2012 fiscal budget takes effect July 1.

“I feel very happy to be voting on a budget that doesn’t have reductions, on the city side budget,” he said, lamenting staff cuts in the school department budget approved last week.

While the 2012 city budget includes relatively few frills — there are no major initiatives or programs being created or upgraded — it also preserves core city services that in recent years have been trimmed back (fewer flowers have been planted citywide in recent years to save money).

Indeed, the budget projects stabilizing revenue sources almost across the board, and even some increases tied to the improving economy: Building permits fees are due to increase by upwards of $200,000, while city revenues from cruise ship visits are also due to increase by about $110,000.

Non-union employees are due a 1 percent raise in this budget, while employees in the city’s half-dozen different unions will see different raises, or not, depending on terms of negotiated contracts.

“It’s a good budget,” said Councilor Cheryl Leeman. “We would always like to make (the tax increase) less, but given everything we are dealing with, it’s come in at a good place.”

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