PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Though he has less than a year left in office, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales unveiled an ambitious city budget Monday.
The mayor wants to add 90 police officers, combat record-setting gang violence, add 800 shelter beds for the homeless and invest nearly $43 million toward those goals.
Hales also wants to invest almost $43 million in homelessness, public safety and housing affordability.
It will be paid for, he said, by slicing $5.3 million from the city bureaus, adding $8.7 million in business license fees and use the surplus of $25.6 million.
“In public safety, we do have a staffing crisis. We need to add at least 90 officers,” Hales said. “The gang violence crisis is real and it affects everybody. We had 1,000 bullets flying around our streets last year and we had 15 people killed, 73 wounded. This is a big deal and getting worse.”
So far in 2016, Portland has seen 58 incidents of gang-related violence, significantly more than at this point a year ago. With 64 police positions currently vacant, the PPB is stretched thin.
$43 million investment:
— $31 million to affordable housing
— $11 million to public safety
Paid for by:
— $26 million surplus
— $5 million in bureau cuts
— $9 million in business license fees
“We need officers out there to interfere with that. We need gang outreach workers to try and stop it from happening in the first place, so that’s a real investment in the safety of our community,” the mayor said.
But Hales understands recruiting is no easy feat, which is why he wants to add incentives for potential officers — raising the starting pay, adding sign-on bonuses and giving awards for employee referrals.
Hales also wants to invest more than $31 million in homeless and affordable housing. Some of that funding will come from an unexpected surplus of nearly $26 million, plus $5 million in cuts to the city’s bureaus plus and increase in the license fee for businesses.
“It doesn’t really affecte small businesses,” Hales said. “That’s one of the good things about this because there’s 60,000 really small businesses and another 15,000 that pay the $100 minimum tax, and they won’t be affected by this.”
The tax, he said, is a .3% increase that affects only larger businesses.
The last time city businesses saw an increase in the business license tax was 1977.
In an email to KOIN 6 News, the Portland Business Alliance said Hales did not ask for their input on this plan, which they oppose.
“The city’s revenues from business income taxes grew 20 percent from 2014 to 2015, and the city’s budget is currently at an all-time high. In addition, the city has had a budget surplus for the past two years,” the email said.
Cuts to the parks budget is not among the items in the proposed budget.
The Portland City Council will vote on this plan in 2 weeks.