Hales on budget announcement: 'This is not a happy day'

Hales on budget announcement: 'This is not a happy day' »Play Video
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales presents his 2013-2014 budget during a news conference on Tuesday. The proposal includes cuts to close a $21.5 million budget gap.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Mayor Charlie Hales’ first proposed budget will eliminate 182 ½ full-time positions, including 55 from the police bureau and 41.8 from Portland Fire and Rescue.

In a news conference from City Hall on Tuesday morning, Hales said the city must get “back to basics” to deal with the city’s $21.5 million shortfall. He called for each bureau to base its budget on 90 percent of its current cost of services.

“This is not a happy day. It’s never easy to cut $21.5 million,” said Hales. “These are real people we are going to be laying off. These are real services that we are going to be cutting.”

The mayor said some of the positions that would be eliminated under the proposed budget are currently empty, including 30 police positions. Hales said the city will offer a retirement incentive to those who are eligible.

"We're making it work right now," said Police Chief Mike Reese. "We're a very lean police department, but we're also one of the safest cities in the United States."

All Portland fire stations will remain open under the proposed budget. He said the fire bureau would focus more on using smaller rescue vehicles rather than larger fire trucks.

"This has been an especially difficult budget year for everyone. Mayor Hales stated from the beginning that solving these problems requires a shared sacrifice from all, and PF&R is working hard to be a part of the solution," said Portland Fire Chief Erin Jannsens in a statement.

Among the city programs facing elimination are the Buckman Pool, a needle exchange program and the annual Symphony in the Park.

Programs that would be saved, or at least partially funded, include Sunday Parkways, SUN Schools, neighborhood tree planting and graffiti removal.

Hales announced deep cuts to overhead and administration. He said keeping overtime under control was an important goal.

The budget also eliminates the police mounted patrol.

“We’re not going to be able to have a horse patrol in Portland, as much as we all love it,” Hales said.

The budget would keep the city's water and sewer rate increases below five percent combined, which would mean an estimated increase of $4.13 per month on the average single-family bill.

Both bureaus requested eight percent increases. The mayor said his lower rate is a good compromise.

When asked about using a tax increase to help deal with the shortfall, the mayor said he didn’t think now was the time for a general tax increase in Portland.

“We are coming out of a recession,” Hales said. “After this budget year, we’re going to be on a slow improvement, as far as we can see.”

The budget document will be printed on May 14, Hales said. Several public forums will follow.

“This is a tough budget for a tough year,” Hales said. “People will be laid off. Popular programs will be eliminated. I understand the human cost of these reductions. And we have tried to cut with as little harm as possible. But this fiscal crisis was also our best chance to build a budget based on Portland’s future and not just a carry-forward of its past.”

Programs to remain fully or partially funded

  • The Parks-operated SUN schools and David Douglas SUN school.
  • Safety resource officers at schools
  • The East Portland Action Plan
  • The Safety Net collective of programs
  • City funding to continue TriMet’s Youth Pass
  • The Multnomah Youth Commission
  • Portland Community College’s Future Connect scholarship program
  • The Hooper detoxification center and the CHIERS program to pick up intoxicated people encountered in public areas
  • Southeast Works
  • Neighborhood tree planting
  • Graffiti removal
  • VOZ Day Labor Center
  • Sunday Parkways

Programs facing elimination

  • Buckman Pool
  • LifeWorks (LifeWorks also gets funding from other sources, so only the "New Options for Women" program that helps women transition out of the sex industry would be hurt by the budget cuts.)
  • Pass-through funding for Multnomah County’s SUN Schools
  • CASHOregon (a program for filing tax returns for low-income Oregonians)
  • A needle exchange program
  • The annual Symphony In The Park
  • A Restorative Justice program in Parkrose

"The hardest part of the budget was picking those programs we just cannot fund this year," Hales said. "In most cases, it was picking one great program over another great program. There are no easy answers."