As part of a twice-yearly shoring up of accounts, the City Budget Office is in the middle of figuring out how much extra cash Portland has to play with, and how to spend it. The Fall Budget Monitoring Process—known as the BMP, or "bump"—spurs a headlong rush for cash among city bureaus each year. This time around, the city's got only about $3.5 million to spend however it wants (and an additional $724,000 that will go toward infrastructure improvements). It's got roughly $46 million in requests—including some enormous infrastructure projects. It's always instructive to check out how the CBO handicaps those requests [pdf].
So back to cops: The police bureau is asking for more than half a million dollars to hire 11 new background investigators. The bureau says it's looking at an enormous wave of officers (90+) up for retirement and—with 35 positions already vacant—it'll struggle to run background checks on enough candidates to keep up (backgrounding is five- to seven-month process, the CBO says).
Because of existing vacancies, overtime has catapulted by 52 percent in the last couple years, to a projected 181,000 this year. "This level of overtime is not sustainable from either a budget or operational perspective," the CBO says. It recommends the cops get their new background checkers.
One thing police may not get? Two new unmarked vehicles for its gang enforcement team, requested at a time cops say gang violence is soaring in Portland.
There are plenty of other interesting items in the BMP, which Portland City Council will hash over next week. Among them:
•The CBO says the Portland Housing Bureau should get $425,000 it's requested to help low-income tenants use housing vouchers that help with rent. That money would pay for new employees at county housing authority Home Forward, and for $250,000 in application fees, rental deposits and other things.
And the CBO says the housing bureau should be pushing more stuff like this, in light of the "state of emergency" Portland's declared around housing. "The Mayor and Council have expressed an intent to allocate $20 million in funding to increase access to affordable housing and homeless services," the CBO's analysis says. "The Fall BMP is an opportunity to act on that intent." Mayor Charlie Hales has said he'd look to the bump to find more money for housing, so it's likely there are more proposals to come.
•Interestingly the housing "emergency" might have snatched the limelight from other important housing efforts—at least in the budget office's eyes. Remember how the city's committed to spending millions to keep people from being displaced in North and Northeast Portland? The housing bureau wants $500,000 to fund home repair loans to that effect, but that CBO has recommended against it.
That's because the bump is for unplanned for expenses, and the city's know it wants to help N/NE homeowners for a long time now. As Budget Director Andrew Scott explains: "It is neither unanticipated nor part of the housing emergency, at least as defined by the recent Council action, and so we recommend against it on those grounds."
•Conspicuously absent from bureau requests is an ask from Portland Parks and Recreation that would pay for benefits and raises for nearly 100 low-wage workers. The city had fought giving those workers union protections until it lost a labor dispute in May. It's cost between $1.3 million and $2.6 million to give them union pay and benefits the city says, but it might wait until spring to fund those pay bumps.
•Mayor Charlie Hales' office wants around $32,000 to help it pay for Last Thursday. It's rebuffed attempts by one organizer to take the controversial event off the city's hands. The CBO doesn't think Hales should get the money.
•The office does endorse paying $61,000 to give the city's Independent Police Review a new investigator. IPR looks into citizen complaints against police, as well as use of force incidents. It's actually asking for two more bodies, which would help satisfy investigation tight deadlines mandated by a settlement Portland's reached with the federal government over police abuses.
In all, the CBO only recommends $1.36 million in new expenditures, meaning council has almost $2 million still in play, even if it takes all of its budget wonks' recommendations. We'll find out more next week about where that money's going.