PORTLAND, Ore. – It's always nice to find a $20 bill that you forgot about in a pocket or bag. Now imagine finding $11 million you didn’t realize you had.
After months of debating budget cuts, the city of Portland got the welcome news recently that they have $11 million more in the bank than originally budgeted. That’s equivalent to about two percent of the city's general fund.
The city had faced a $21 million shortfall.
The additional money came from better-than-expected tax revenue and as a result of city agencies slowing their spending.
Despite the windfall, it's not clear if the city will roll back some of their larger cuts, such as restoring some fire trucks.
"It's like finding a little extra money in your checking account, but it's not money you know is going to be there in the future," explained city budget director Andrew Scott.
Mayor Charlie Hales said the city has three priorities in mind:
- Pay off city debt for renovations like those made at City Hall.
The city spent more than $4 million for renovations dating back to the 1990s.
- Hales wants to give tax breaks to small businesses in Portland.
- He wants to use the money to house the homeless.
The mayor argues that paying off the big debts now will mean having more money for other services later.
"If we pay that debt off now – If we put about $7.6 million into paying off that debt, that actually will free up about $3.5 million of general fund for every year going forward," Hales said.
Along with Hales, City Commissioner Nick Fish says he also wants to use some of the money to help the homeless.
"He wants to put some money into helping families with children escape our streets, which I strongly support," he said.
The public will get a chance to weigh in on what the city should do with the money. The city council will discuss options for spending the money at a meeting in October.
Fish says the surplus money will start to be used next year after the public has a chance to weigh in.
If you have a story for the On Your Side Investigators, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.