The city of Portland has a $12 million surplus from last year’s budget, and it plans to spend much of it to add to the city’s police force, operate homeless shelters and complete infrastructure projects.
The new spending, approved Wednesday, will be on top of the $516 million spending plan for 2017-18 that the City Council approved in May.
In addition to adding temporary jobs to the police force to prepare for a wave of retirements, the council approved adding 66 other full-time jobs across the city’s 27 bureaus.
At least 50 percent of funds leftover from the beginning budget — $6 million — will go to major maintenance and infrastructure costs, as city rules require. About $5 million will go to a bridge replacement project on Northeast 42nd Avenue at Lombard Street. The Portland Communication Center and the Justice Center will each get $500,000 to ensure uninterrupted power. In April, a power outage at the Bureau of Emergency Communications blocked calls to 911 for half an hour.
Among the largest discretionary allocations approved Wednesday were $2 million for the Portland Police Bureau and $1.7 million for the Joint Office of Homeless services to add year-round and winter emergency shelters for homeless people. The council also approved $570,000 for increased security at City Hall.
“The city continues to benefit from a strong economy, allowing us to make additional investments in urgent priorities,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said.
The city has benefited from surpluses each fall since 2013, said City Budget Officer Andrew Scott. Because the city sets a conservative budget every spring, there are often more opportunities for spending, referred to in city lingo as “the bump,” come fall.
Commissioner Dan Saltzman took issue with spending the additional $6 million outside of the normal budget proposal process. He criticized the lack of public involvement and questioned the lack of competitive process for programs collectively awarded $2.5 million.
Those expenditures include $100,00 for an Age Friendly initiative championed by Commissioner Nick Fish, $6,000 in travel and registration costs for a participatory budgeting conference recommended by the mayor, $227,000 for a Lents stabilization project and $6,300 for the Office of Youth Violence and Prevention, an organization of particular interest to Saltzman.
At Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s urging, the council approved giving $100,000 to the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon via the Portland Development Commission, now known as Prosper Portland.
“We’re all guilty up here because we all have our little pet projects tucked into this,” Saltzman said. “There has got to be a better way to make sure these appropriations are subject to more rigor than they are during the bump process.”
The commissioner cited spending for the budgeting conference as one he thinks needed more scrutiny.
“Travel requests that I routinely deny as a commissioner in charge somehow work their way into a bump request,” he said.