The citizens of the City of Portland are at the top of the organizational chart in the city’s budget. It is we to whom the mayor, commissioners and all other city employees report. Budgeting is no one’s favorite subject. But if we, the people are uninformed, we are powerless.
In this third of a seven part series, we will discuss the Public Safety portion of the Portland city budget, where we spend over one-fifth of our city’s budget.
As mentioned before, one way to determine city priorities is to point out the places where the budget has increased. This is particularly true during a time of budget cuts. The goal for overall budget cuts in the city budget this year was 2.5%. .
Public Safety – 20.7% ($380,026,546)
In order of expenditures, this includes:
1. Portland Police Bureau,
2. Bureau of Fire and Police Disability and Retirement,
3. Portland Fire and Rescue,
4. Bureau of Emergency Communications, and
5. Portland Office of Emergency Management.
All budgets were cut except for a 9.8% increase in Bureau of Fire and Police Disability and Retirement, $2.6 million for the Service Coordination Team and $911 thousand for Inebriate Emergency Response Service. Payments for a soon-to-be-retired building lease will be redirected to sexual victim assault advocates and funding for non-profit organizations that provide such services, as well as $50 thousand toward supporting the Multnomah County Domestic Violence Coordinator. Fire and Rescue also added over $66 thousand for non contract “premium pay” for twelve divers.
To accomplish budget cuts, the Police Bureau consolidated five precincts into three, and reduced budgets in the Crime Stoppers, Reserve Unit, Information and Referral, Arson, Forensic, Canine, internal Fire & Police liaison, as well as other personnel and materials cuts.
Fire and Rescue cut seven positions as well as reduced budgets for travel, email and education.
By far, the most significant change in this budget in the increase is fire and police disability and retirement. This is due to unexpectedly large retirement in 2006 – 2007. Retirees hired before 2006 receive nearly 100% of their salary in pension benefits with cost of living allowances, causing the fund budget to be the lowest it has been in many years in the year following this spike in retirements. Further, changes in fire and police benefit calculations last year are likely to cause more spikes in retirements in the future.
Clearly, the growth in pension and disability expenses for police and firefighters in this city, now the second highest expenditure in the public safety portion of the budget will continue to increase much more rapidly than any other part of these expenses.