Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling on Thursday urged city councilors to restore several cuts proposed by the city manager.

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling

Strimling called on the council’s Finance Committee to fully fund a local aid program for asylum seekers, continue to provide unlimited overflow space for people seeking emergency shelter, keep a fire engine in service on Munjoy Hill and add funding to fully implement the city’s pesticides ordinance.

There were no immediate details about how much additional funding would be required to reverse the cuts or how it would be paid for.

“There are four areas I hope we as the committee will continue to work on,” Strimling said. “First and foremost, not surprising, is the Community Support Fund. Our city has been a welcoming city for generations and we put our money where our values lie.”

Strimling was fulfilling his obligations under the city charter to deliver formal comments on the municipal budget presented by City Manager Jon Jennings. The $206.6 million budget proposal would increase the municipal portion of the tax rate by 2.9 percent, as well as increase the price of city trash bags.

Strimling was scheduled to give his budget comments at Monday’s council meeting. But he left council chambers after losing a close vote on a proposal to require Portland businesses to allow workers to earn paid sick time to rally with advocates as they spoke to television reporters.

Strimling’s comments Thursday were delivered to the three-member Finance Committee, on which he serves as a member. His remarks lasted four minutes and were presented without fanfare and come days before the full council discusses the budget on Monday.

His top priority was maintaining the Community Support Fund, which city officials and some immigration advocates believe is one of the only – if not the only – municipally funded financial aid program for non-citizens in the country.

The fund was created in 2015 in response to a proposal by former Gov. Paul LePage, who sought to eliminate asylum seekers from the state’s General Assistance program. The cut never went forward, but noncitizen eligibility for the state program was limited. And the city fund has been used to cover those who do not qualify for state assistance.

This year, the fund was budgeted to have $200,000. By March, it was $36,000 over budget and the city stopped accepting new applicants. Jennings proposed reduce that funding by $50,000 next year and eliminating the program the following year.

After the mayor’s comments, Jennings questioned Strimling’s proposal.

“We’re the only financial incentive in the entire country for the asylum-seeker population,” Jennings said. “This is good economic times. When it goes south on us, it’s going to be really challenging.”

Councilor Nicholas Mavodones said he wasn’t sure whether the city should continue the program. However, he noted that the fund was originally designed to help people who were cut out of the state program and was never intended to be an ongoing benefit.

“What the Community Support Fund was intended to do and what it’s doing now are two different things,” Mavodones said.

During his speech, Strimling also called on the city to maintain a second overflow for the Oxford Street Shelter, which provides emergency shelter for up to 154 single adults, who sleep on floor mats. That shelter routinely exceeds capacity, so an additional 75 mats are set up at the Preble Street Resource Center nearby.

When that overflow is full, the city opens its General Assistance office for additional space. It’s this practice that Jennings proposed eliminating, which staff initially estimated would save at least $45,000.

Strimling also called on the city to keep Engine 1 in service on Munjoy Hill. And increase funding to fully implement the city’s pesticides ordinance.

The proposed $206.6 million general fund municipal budget, which includes a 5.6 percent county tax increase, would be 4.6 percent higher than the current budget of $197.6 million. That translates into a 2.9 percent, or 33-cent, increase in the municipal side of the property tax rate, which would lead to a $79 property tax increase for a home with an assessed value of $240,000.

The proposed budget for Portland Public Schools would increase the school portion of the property tax rate by 5.4 percent, adding about 60 cents to the mil rate. That translates into an increase of $144 per year for a home assessed at $240,000.

Combined, the budget proposals would lead to a 4.1 increase in property taxes, a $223 increase to the annual tax bill of a home valued at $240,000.

The council is scheduled to have a public hearing and vote on the city and school budgets on May 20.