Portland City Manager Jon Jennings is proposing a $247 million municipal budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that would include one layoff and the net loss of about a dozen positions.

Jennings’ proposal, which was presented to the City Council on Monday night, would lead to the layoff of Julie Sullivan, who currently holds the title of senior adviser to the city manager. Jennings said he was making Sullivan’s position into a second assistant city manager position, which had existed in the past.

Sullivan said in an email she does not intend to apply for the new assistant city manager position. “I’m ready to move on after 16 years with the city,” she said.

The council referred the manager’s budget to its Finance Committee, which will review and possibly amend the budget proposal ahead of a May 14 public hearing. Final action on the budget is slated for May 21.

When the city budget is combined with the most recent school budget, which is still being developed, residents could see a 4.6 percent increase in their property taxes, from $21.65 per $1,000 of assessed value to $22.65. That would add about $250 to the annual tax bill of a home assessed at $250,000.

Mayor Ethan Strimling was not at Monday’s meeting because of an appointment, so he did not provide his budget comments as required by the city charter. Strimling said he’d give those remarks on April 26.

“I appreciate all of the hard work staff put into drafting the budget,” Strimling said in a written message. “I look forward to reviewing it as a member of the finance committee over the next three weeks.”

Jennings’ proposal would increase municipal spending by nearly $7 million. It would increase taxes by 2.6 percent, which he said in an interview was within the guidance given by councilors.

With Portland’s valuation increasing by $100 million, many people think the city government is flush with cash. But Jennings said new development has resulted in only an additional $1.1 million in new revenue on the municipal side, which was consumed by $3.2 million in contractual raises, a $882,000 increase in pension bonds, a $381,000 increase in county taxes and a $2 million, or 12 percent, increase in health insurance costs.

“This was by far the most difficult budget I have been involved with,” Jennings said. “It’s also a budget I believe does not move the city forward. It’s budget that is status quo.”

To meet the council’s directive, Jennings said in an interview before the meeting that his budget includes a net loss of 13 positions from the General Fund, including six positions in the Police Department that the chief could not fill because he lacked suitable candidates. Those included four patrol officers, an ordinance enforcement officer and a sergeant.

Jennings also eliminated four firefighting positions – one for each shift on the fire boat. The people currently in those positions will be reassigned to other vacancies in the department.

The change would not affect response times to the islands, he said, because the fire boat already waits for a paramedic before getting underway.

In his budget memo to councilors, Jennings said he also eliminated 19.6 positions from Barron Center, a city-run nursing home on Brighton Avenue. The center, like other hospitals and assisted-living facilities nationwide, has struggled with staffing, and all of those positions were vacant. The center temporarily reduced its occupancy by 25 beds last year as a result of the staffing issues. The unit has since reopened.

The budget does not include additional staffing resulting from the new pesticide ordinance, though Jennings said the city has purchased all of the necessary supplies and equipment to comply with the ordinance. He said he’ll look to add the new positions in a future budget.

Parking fees also would increase under the manager’s proposal. A 25-cent an hour increase is proposed for parking meters, a $1 an hour increase in hourly rates at the city’s two garages at Elm and Spring streets, and a $10 a month increase for monthly parkers at those same facilities. The city also is anticipating a $850,000 increase in excise revenue and $500,000 in cruise-ship revenue.

Jennings noted that departmental budget requests called for an additional 60 positions, which would have resulted in an 18.8 percent tax increase. To meet the council’s directive, he eliminated $14 million in new requests.

When combined with the most recent school budget, which is still being developed, residents could see a 4 percent increase in their property taxes, from $21.65 per $1,000 of assessed value to $22.65. That would add about $250 to the annual tax bill of a home assessed at $250,000.

Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana originally proposed a $113.4 million budget, which would have increased the schools’ portion of the taxes by 9 percent. However, the school finance committee pared down the budget to $112 million, reducing the school’s tax impact 6.62 percent.

Strimling has been a vocal supporter of Botana’s school budget request, as have Progressive Portland and Protect Our Neighborhood Schools, which were the driving forces behind the successful effort to pass a $64 million bond to renovate four elementary schools. PONS has already been sponsoring Facebook ads supporting the school budget, which will eventually go before voters for approval.

Given the current posture, Jennings said in an interview that he expected a highly political budget process going forward.

“It cannot be a zero-sum game where you have some political action committee and groups and some people in city government who are advocating for one particular side over the other,” Jennings said. “That is sad and frankly I feel as though it brings Washington-style politics to municipal government and that’s really not where we should be. What we should be doing is figuring this out together and working collaboratively and not pitting one against the other.”

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

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 10 a.m. Tuesday April 10, 2018, to correct the amount of a proposed tax increase, a new city staff position and the status of a unit at the Barron Center.

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