The Portland City Council on Monday formally received the city manager’s $240 million budget proposal and approved separate budgets for federal grants and capital improvements.

The council referred City Manager’s Jon Jennings’s budget proposal to its Finance Committee, kicking off a month-long review process.

It also approved a nearly $30 million borrowing plan for major capital projects including roads and sidewalks, and nearly $1.8 million in projects funded through Community Development Block Grants, a federal program to improve low income neighborhoods and social service programs that President Trump is looking to eliminate.

Jennings cautioned recipients of block grant funds, which will be used for community policing, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, substance abuse services and childcare for low-income families, among many other things, that it’s possible the city will not actually receive the federal funds.

“I’m very concerned about this funding and future funding due to the administration in Washington,” Jennings said. “We will be waiting with bated breath to see if any of that money will be clawed back. There’s great uncertainty about whether we will have funds to distribute.”

The council also debated its Capital Improvement Plan, which is a borrowing program geared toward longterm investments in roadways and buildings.

Mayor Ethan Strimling said he sought to remove a $1.4 million allocation to extend Thames Street to help facilitate the redevelopment of the former Portland Co. complex, as well as improve access to city-owned parcels being considered for a park and being sold for development.

“You can go all over the city to look at our needs. To me this road is not a priority,” Strimling said.

Several residents voiced support for Strimling’s amendment, which failed to gain any support from the council.

North Street resident Peter Murray said the city should remove the allocation to build the road until the developer, CPB2, has received site plan approvals and financing. Without approvals, Murray said the city could be wasting money.

“Let’s not plow $1.4 million into a road that might not go anywhere,” Murray said.

Eight councilors, however, thought otherwise, saying the investment has been long planned and would actually increase the value of city owned land that could be sold in the future.

Councilor David Brenerman, who leads the Economic Development Committee, said that the $1.4 million investment would ultimately lead to additional property taxes that could be used to fund other priorities in the city.

“We cannot continue to support all of those programs without economic growth,” he said. “The city will stagnate if we don’t encourage economic development and one of the best places in the community to have that development is on the waterfront.”

The council also formally received Jennings’ $240 million municipal budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and referred it to the Finance Committee for review.

Strimling applauded the city manager’s $240 million budget proposal, particularly efforts to address the opioid crisis in Maine’s largest city, which saw five nonfatal overdoses within about 24 hours this week.

The budget proposal fully funds the Needle Exchange and sexually transmitted disease services at the city-run India Street Public Health Center, which was the subject of much debate last year with elimination of HIV-positive health care.

This year, the city is adding the for-profit Grace Street Recovery Services to 103 India St., which will provide treatment services to people addicted to opioids.

The budget also adds a senior level support for emergency medical technicians, while also bolstering community policing programs in the Bayside and Parkside neighborhoods.

“In the midst of an unconscionable opioid epidemic, adding capacity to bolster our hardworking first responders is not only smart, but critically necessary,” Strimling said.

Strimling called on the council to work with the city’s top attorney, Danielle West-Chutha, to find a “legally sound and decisive solution” to help as many as 180 asylum seekers who could lose access to General Assistance for food and housing because of a 2015 state law that limits them to 24 months of assistance.

The council should “ensure that our newest neighbors do not get caught up in this misguided and shortsighted game of political chicken,” he said. “The only answer we cannot accept is one that leaves those in need out in the cold.”

Strimling also called on the Finance Committee to help him create a tax relief program for “fixed-income seniors,” one of the goals he outlined in his State of the City address in January. He noted that Jennings was able to limit the tax increase this year, thanks in large part to $1.8 million in new revenue generated from increased economic activity.

“There is a delicate balancing act that must take place to ensure that government meets our needs and expectations while doing so within constraints that do not unduly burden Portland taxpayers,” said Strimling, who also supports efforts to use property taxes to fund $64 million of improvements at four elementary schools. “This budget appears to strike that balance.”

Strimling also applauded efforts to improve customer service by extending City Hall office hours one day a week, reducing wait times for simply building permits, adding electronic kiosks to perform some basic tasks and plans to roll out a new cell phone application that would alert people when their parking meters expire and allow them to purchase more time remotely.

The municipal budget would increase property taxes for non-educational services by 2.5 percent, adding 27 cents to the current mil rate of $21.11 per $1,000 of valuation, or about $65 to the annual tax bill of a home assessed at $240,000.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @randybillings