It's too soon to say whether Mayor Ted Wheeler's got any tricks in store on Monday, when the new mayor will release his first city budget ever. We've been told not to expect any hijinks like Charlie Hales' surprise, ill-fated business tax hike from last year.
But we do know the numbers Wheeler is dealing with.
Following a revamped revenue forecast that made the rounds at City Hall earlier this week, the mayor's budget will include nearly $21 million more in one-time spending, but seek to trim $2.3 million in costs that recur each year, according to City Economist Josh Harwood.
That's still a fairly plush budget, considered against the $21 million deficit Hales grappled with his first year on the job. But it's also a smaller surplus than Portland's had in years. Which makes sense: The city's surging economic growth has to slow some time.
These financial assumptions also contain some budgetary smoke and mirrors.
Harwood Wheeler made the decision not to assume the city will be able to collect a first-of-its-kind tax on egregious CEO pay slated to kick in next year. As we reported in February, Donald Trump's administration has signaled it could make collecting the tax impossible.
Without that assumption built in, Wheeler would be working with a $200,000 surplus in ongoing funding, and $18.4 million in extra in one-time money.
Either way, the numbers seem bigger than they likely feel to city officials. A persistent theme in past years has been that the city's financial growth—albeit robust—is not keeping pace with increases in its spending. That was one reason Hales proposed the business tax hike last year.
Sure the details are wonky, but they'll take on real meaning Monday morning, when we see where Wheeler's priorities lie.
One very vocal group we're told will likely be disappointed: Boosters for the Portland Police Bureau's Mounted Patrol Unit. Each year, the PPB offers up the unit to the budget gods, and each year politicians pass, after hearing panicked shouts about the good PR the horses give the PPB.
"The horses are a walking beat on steroids," says Bob Ball, head of the group Friends of the Mounted Patrol. "There is no better ice breaker."
In years past, the group has offered up money to help the Mounted Patrol Unit keep the stable lights on. Currently, it's waggling $465,000 it says it'll kick in for a new paddock for the horses (which have been rousted from their longtime home in the Pearl District, and currently stay in Lake Oswego). The group's also begun an online petition that currently has more than 2,100 "signatures."
It might not be enough for Wheeler, whose spokesperson told us earlier this year was "likely to recommend a cut to the mounted patrol.
We'll find out if the mayor follows through on Monday. Once Wheeler's budget is released it will be subject to jockeying among city commissioners, and will almost certainly garner outcry from some citizen group or another.