PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The City of Portland held a budget meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the historic budget surplus of nearly $62 million and the mayor’s proposal for spending that huge surplus.
Half of the city’s surplus is available to be spent during the fall BMP.
Mayor Ted Wheeler rolled out his top priorities for spending this afternoon with most of the money proposed to be allocated toward dealing with homelessness, community safety and economic recovery.
“The city is fortunate to be navigating a historic surplus of $62 million,” Wheeler said.
City commissioners listened to the mayor’s proposal which would put around around 18.9 million into addressing homelessness, 7 million into improving public safety and 2.2 million into supporting economic recovery.
“This investment proposal focuses on infrastructure, human infrastructure,” Wheeler said.
With much of the proposal’s money going toward homelessness, Wheeler explained where the plan targets that money, including increasing capacity to do outreach work, offering storage services and hygiene solutions and funding greater capacity in the behavioral health unit, which responds to people having a behavioral health crisis.
He said it also allows for a five-fold increase in camp cleanups, returning the city to pre-pandemic operation levels and creates a street coordination center to monitor shelters in real-time allowing first responders and outreach workers to offer a bed that they know is available.
The proposal also creates 400 additional beds in the transitional shelter system. There wasn’t a lot of debate during the meeting, but Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty did question whether the city was getting value out of the money that was already being spent to tackle homelessness.
“I can’t just not acknowledge the significant increase of resources we continue to send to the joint office,” Hardesty said. “I’m just curious, if there is any analysis of the added value that continues to be added as we continue to add more dollars to that particular office. Is there any data of the outcomes, based on money we keep pouring into that particular entity?”
The city budget director said they’d have the information available in coming weeks.