That money is largely a one-time thing, the office says, but $4.4 million is "ongoing" money that bureaus can count on for years. And it'll be snatched up in a heartbeat. As part of this year's budget process, Mayor Charlie Hales asked most bureaus (except Housing) to identify 5 percent in cuts they might be willing to make—some $20.2 million potentially off the books all told.
The bureaus complied, suggesting some big shifts. The cops, improbably, have proposed cutting the entire Traffic Division (though police brass have reason to believe their relatively slim staff will be spared the knife). Parks—wrestling with millions in additional expenses made necessary by a recent labor ruling—toyed with the notion of slashing community center hours and cutting popular events like Movies in the Park, among other things.
It was never a sure thing any programs would be axed, but Hales wanted to see where bureaus had identified potential fat. At the same time, of course, bureaus have clamored for more money. Coincidentally, they've requested $20.2 million per year in new costs—the same amount as the cuts they'd proposed—and an additional $74 million a year in one-time requests (half of those from the Portland Bureau of Transportation, which is also hoping you'll pass a 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax in May).
Today's revamped numbers, which may swell even more when the budget office revises its forecast in April, help ease a dire outlook Commissioner Amanda Fritz has repeatedly raised. And, coming a year after Portland found it had nearly $50 million extra to spend, they're a further signal that the local economy is booming.
But as Portland CFO Ken Rust recently warned City Council, those rising revenues go hand in hand with rising costs. The city's pension obligations are underfunded, its parks and roads have funding shortfalls, and its employees are growing more expensive.
Like city Budget Director Andrew Scott told me in December: "Revenues are increasing fast, but our obligations and needs are rising faster."
The budget process gets serious in March, with a series of five council work sessions that will tweak whatever proposals Hales comes up with for all this cash. The budget year, remember, stretches from July to June.