Mayor Charlie Hales says this camp for women is on the chopping block, without more tax money.
Mayor Charlie Hales says this camp for women is on the chopping block, without more tax money. Dirk VanderHart

Mayor Charlie Hales says his colleagues are about to leave the city's homeless camps and cops high and dry.

A day after it became clear a majority of Portland City Council opposes Hales' proposed 13 percent hike on Portland's Business License Tax, the mayor is holding up a list of things he says are imperiled if at least a portion of the $8.7 million the hike might bring in isn't restored.

"The bulk of additional revenue in my budget goes toward investing in the Police Bureau and continuing to address homelessness," Hales says in a statement. "Cutting these investments would be a disservice to Portland."

First, Hales says he'd have to do away with $3.3 million he's put toward better pay for Portland police (an item that still would have to be negotiated with the bureau's rank-and-file union). The Portland Police Bureau is short dozens of officers, and officials argue the current pay scale isn't competitive.

And Hales says an array of support services for the city's homeless community, which have of late been funneled through the city's Office of Management and Finance, are in trouble as things stand.

"All support for camps stops," Hales says in the statement. "That means 200 people who are sleeping off the streets and in organized camping would no longer have toilets, dumpsters, storage, required Code of Conduct agreements, or management."

It also means new camps—like one that's in the works for homeless women—can't be established, Hales argues, and that "sleeping pods" the city is working on won't have continued funding. And Hales warns services won't be available for homeless area Right 2 Dream Too, assuming it moves to the Central Eastside later this year as planned.

The dire predictions continue: And end to the homeless day-storage site at the west end of the Steel Bridge (which has been underutilized), less homeless outreach, no planning for organized car and RV camping.

Hales has long signaled he'd make an argument like this, if his colleagues don't agree with him that his enormous $510 million general fund proposal needs the higher business tax. He says, despite a $25 million surplus, a growing Portland needs new revenue.

But It's not totally clear why Hales is calling out these things as items that would have to be sacrificed without a business tax. City Council could find other trims that might allow some or all of them to continue.

The police pay raise, at least, has already been singled out by one commissioner as a possible trim. Commissioner Steve Novick notes that the $3.3 million Hales has suggested putting toward higher police pay would balloon to roughly $9 million in coming years, building a deficit into the budget.

In his message, Hales also makes clear he supports a new tax on construction projects in Portland, which some estimates indicate could generate roughly $5.5 million a year in unrestricted funds (another $5.5 million would be required to go specifically toward affordable housing).

That proposal, which housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman has been exploring, could be a flashpoint if there's disagreement about how much of the construction tax revenue goes toward housing.

There's a hearing scheduled on Hales' proposed budget tomorrow afternoon, but given the opposition to the business tax hike, a fully formed proposal likely won't be ready by then.