Portland City Council is poised to vote on the 2025 city budget, and you could be on the hook for significant tax increases.

Initially, double-digit numbers – as high as 17% – were floated. They have since come down to 4.91% on the city side and close to 7% for the School Board. Although it’s down to single digits, this is still high and nowhere near the historical and reasonable 3% tax increase that tracks loosely to inflation.

There are numerous reasons that the tax bill is inflated. On the city side, woefully deferred maintenance makes up a large portion. Debt servicing costs, gaps in state funding and inflationary pressure across the board add to the burden. The school board boldly calls for a 6.8% increase in school funding despite no proof that academic outcomes in Portland are improved with additional monies.

The largest portion of the city budget is allocated to social services costs. The budget funded Health and Human Services to the tune of $55 million in fiscal year 2024, up from $35.9 million in 2023. This year the number was nudged down to $53 million and change. This includes the Riverside Homeless Services Center shelter and a multitude of Bayside shelters and services. The shelter was a good investment, and it works to move people off the street. Yet, a $25 million shelter is apparently not a big enough ask of the taxpayer.

Portland taxpayers are consistently asked to pay for all of Maine’s ills, namely drug addiction and mental illness. We pay nearly 50 times per capita more than the next biggest city, Bangor, according to Department of Health and Human Services numbers from 2019 to 2023.

This is a direct result of several city councilors who have decided (without citizen input) that Portland should be a mecca, a “hub” for social services and that property taxes should fund all the attendant programs in perpetuity. It’s not sustainable. To continually ask property owners to prop up numerous social service programs that provide little data as to their effectiveness is wrongheaded at best. What is the endgame?

Secondly, a social services hub is not a positive vision for the city. It means further degradation in Bayside with more sub-standard housing, more crime and violence, more brazen illegal drug use, more sidewalk tents and more shelters. The councilors’ efforts have centered on preserving and cheerleading slum-like encampments while maxing out taxpayers. Where is the talk of a robust business economy, a thriving tourist destination, well-maintained parks, paved streets, walkable sidewalks and safety for all citizens?

We are mortgaging the city – our roads, sidewalks, parks, pools, fire and police departments – to be a social services mecca. A handful of councilors focus on a sliver of the population, pointedly ignoring the needs and desires of the remaining 68,000 taxpaying citizens. Election to the City Council requires that you serve your district and the city at large – not a destructive socialist ideology.

If you are concerned about a city budget wildly out of alignment with any long-term positive vision for the city, the lack of transparency from councilors and the citizenry being overruled time and again, speak up, attend City Hall meetings and give testimony. The city budget will be voted on next week. More importantly, vote for new council members in the fall. You get what you vote for.

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