PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler revealed his $7.1 billion budget proposal for the 2024 fiscal year on Thursday, with focus on homelessness, public safety and the city’s economic recovery.
“Last year, I put forward a budget that invested in healing and building for the future of Portland. This year, my proposed budget builds on that foundation, implementing the bold change Portlanders have called for within their City government and their community,” Wheeler said in a statement.
The proposal calls for $43.3 million to address homelessness including operating over 400 congregate shelter beds through the Joint Office of Homeless Services. Wheeler also proposed additional funding to expand the Street Services Coordination Center to help people facing unsheltered homelessness get off the streets and to connect them to resources.
“My proposed budget funds nearly 400 congregate beds through the Joint Office of Homeless Services, expands the Street Services Coordination Center and continues to provide resources to get folks off the streets and into temporary safe alternative shelter sites, and connected to resources,” Wheeler said. “Portland continues to experience rampant rates of unsheltered homelessness across the city. Unsheltered Portlanders continue to live in unsafe and unhygienic conditions, with many suffering from untreated substance use disorders and mental health issues generally.”
The mayor says the city anticipates opening 625 affordable housing units in 2023 on top of 3,400 units already in the pipeline.
KOIN 6 News spoke with multiple Portland residents who are frustrated with the homeless issues in the city.
“We’re not just concerned about our safety, but watching what’s happening to people living like this, it’s just sad,” said Aaliyah Mumtaz Mays.
“There’s so much untreated mental illness and addiction. And we currently don’t have treatment facilities, or treatment providers, or referral capacity for the people we’ve got,” added Donna Hammar, a volunteer with Portland Street Medicine..
“Rates of gun violence incidence are on a downward trend and, while that is encouraging progress, the City is continuing to invest in programs that help keep the community safe and ensure offenders are held accountable for their actions,” the mayor’s office said in a press release.
To that end, Wheeler’s budget includes $5.3 million in ongoing dollars for 43 new sworn officer positions and aims to boost Portland Police Bureau recruitment by hiring 300 officers by the end of the fiscal year.
The budget proposal would also support vehicle recovery efforts along with retail and vehicle theft investigations and prosecutions through the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.
This comes after the mayor and the district attorney’s office announced two new task forces to address the rampant theft.
The mayor’s office said the Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program along with the Public Environment Management Office are leading trash collection and graffiti abatement across the city. Wheeler’s budget maintains current service levels for these programs and proposes $21.7 million.
The proposal also includes $400,000 for the non-profit organization SOLVE for neighborhood clean-ups and $2 million for derelict RV enforcement and towing.
Wheeler’s budget would direct $800,000 for existing grant programs to support small business stabilization and local events.
“This budget continues funding decorative lighting to enhance the city and encourage locals and visitors alike to take advantage of small businesses and events,” the mayor’s office said.
Wheeler’s office also dedicated funds to restore the Thompson Elk Fountain.
After Portlanders voted to overhaul the current election system and opt for ranked-choice voting, Wheeler says $9.5 million has been directed for staffing, consulting, voter education and the facilities needed to implement the charter change by January 1, 2025.
Wheeler says Portlanders can expect rate increases for water and sewer services – citing inflation increasing construction costs on the Bull Run filtration project and the Secondary Treatment Expansion Program.
According to Wheeler, the combined rate increase is proposed at 6.59% which totals to a combined monthly increase of $8.90 per month or $26.70 per quarter for single-family units.
The mayor’s office is holding several hearings and public comment periods on his budget proposal in the coming weeks.