The Portland City Council on Monday postponed action on a proposed $261 million budget as city leaders wait to see if the state will provide additional support for General Assistance costs.

All budget items on Monday’s agenda were postponed unanimously.

The proposed budget includes a 6.1% increase in the city side of the tax rate and would result in an overall tax rate increase of 5.9% when taken in conjunction with the proposed $143.8 million school budget that will go to a referendum next week.

Together, the budgets would result in an 80 cent increase on the current tax rate of $13.61 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $300 on a home valued at $375,000.

The city budget this year is challenged by inflation, reductions in revenues that include COVID-19 relief funding and revenue sharing dollars, staff vacancies, and an influx of asylum seekers in need of emergency shelter.

In her budget proposal unveiled in April, City Manager Danielle West wrote that the proposal includes the assumption the state will increase the amount of reimbursement to municipalities for General Assistance costs or include one-time funding, as was done last year, to help offset increased GA costs.


“If we do not secure one of these funding sources, we will need to make cuts to core municipal services or push our municipal tax rate increase up to at least 10.4% or more,” West wrote in her budget proposal in April.

On Monday, she said the city is still waiting to find out what help the state will be able to offer.

No one spoke during a public hearing on the budget Monday. Public comment also will be taken when the council takes action on the budget, which is expected on June 26, Mayor Kate Snyder said.


Lawmakers this session were considering a handful of bills that would increase the state’s reimbursement to municipalities for General Assistance costs from 70% to 90%. Three of those bills – L.D. 1732, L.D. 1426 and L.D. 1675 – are being carried over to the next legislative session.

A fourth bill, L.D. 1664, was unanimously approved by the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services but has not yet been reported out of the committee, Sen. Marianne Moore, R-Washington, the bill’s sponsor, said in an interview before Monday’s council meeting.


Moore estimated the increase from 70% to 90% would cost the state about $8.5 million annually and include about $6.5 million in additional funding for Portland, though West said she has been expecting the impact to be more around $4.2 million for Portland.

West and Snyder have written to Gov. Janet Mills to encourage her to support L.D. 1664 as well as to take other steps to help the city in responding to asylum seekers and high numbers of people experiencing homelessness.

The council on Monday was briefed on a letter to Mills sent Friday in which the mayor and city manager also asked for increased state coordination of services for asylum seekers and additional shelters or transitional housing.

A spokesperson for Mills confirmed receipt of the letter Monday, said the governor has directed her administration to evaluate what additional support the state can offer and said she has also been calling for fixes to the immigration system at the national level.

In the immediate term, Mills has proposed $12 million in one-time funding in her budget change package for emergency housing, building on $43 million provided by the governor and Legislature over the last year to address homelessness, Mills’ spokesman Ben Goodman said.

Goodman said Mills has also proposed $3 million in one-time supplemental General Assistance support for municipalities and a one-time $7.5 million appropriation to ensure the state meets its General Assistance obligations in the coming fiscal year.



Portland was housing about 1,200 people on a nightly basis as of the end of May, and has seen more than 1,500 asylum seekers arrive in the city since Jan. 1.

The city temporarily opened the Portland Expo as a shelter for asylum seeking families in April, but is preparing to decommission the space by Aug. 16. New families are no longer being accepted as of Monday and the Expo is currently at capacity.

At the same time, the city has convened a new Encampment Crisis Response Team that will be working to improve the response to removal of large encampments and helping people transition to shelter or permanent housing.

The council was briefed Monday on the plans of the response team, which met for the first time last week and which the city plans to deploy to an encampment along the Fore River Parkway Trail near Frederic Street.

A listening session for city officials to hear from the public on the proliferation of encampments on public property around the city, share information about the city’s response and hear suggestions is scheduled for next Tuesday from 5:30-8 p.m. at the Ocean Gateway.


In their letter to the governor, the mayor and city manager noted that steps like the response team will take time to see results. But they said they may still need additional help.

“We understand that some states have called on the National Guard to assist with the provision of temporary shelter, as well as logistical and operational support until long-term solutions can be implemented,” West and Snyder wrote.

“Our hope is to avoid a need to request such action, but should we not be able to meet the goal of housing people living outdoors soon, we would like to be able to address that and other options with you.”

In other news Monday, the council unanimously approved a proposal from Portland Downtown to close off the lower portion of Exchange Street, between Fore and Middle streets, to traffic on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. this summer.

Portland Downtown is calling the event “Open Air Sundays,” and expects the closures to benefit the community economically and socially, according to a memo to the council. The closures are expected to start June 16 and run through Sept. 23.

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