November 7th, 2012 | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: PDX News, PDX Votes, Politics, Schools, City Hall, Multnomah County

Portland and Multnomah County Strike Sellwood Bridge Deal to Compensate for Library Taxing District

     
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lede_library_3839Photograph by Thomas Allen (courtesy of Foley Gallery, NY)

The good vibes from election night have carried over into Portland budget relief the next day.

Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen today announced a deal with Portland Mayor Sam Adams to help fund Sellwood Bridge rebuilding and eight SUN schools. The agreement, worth $18.7 million in saved city expenses, will offset the costs to the city from the new Multnomah County Library taxing district, which voters passed Nov. 6.

Adams hailed the one-time deal, first reported by The Oregonian. He says it's a sign of renewed cooperation.

"I'm glad the city and the county have the opportunity once again to work creatively together on shared issues and needs," Adams tells WW. "Through Chair Jeff Cogen's leadership, the county will help to mitigate the budget impact of the library district by supporting city programs of shared interest. We appreciate this continued partnership."

Cogen is also pleased.

"I think we reached a fair agreement," Cogen tells WW. "I'd view it as a win-win."

The new library taxing district will cost the city at least $7 million a year in property tax compression—plus another $1 million to the Portland Children's Levy, which funds programs for foster kids. (WW explored that budget squeeze in this feature story.)

But Cogen says the county has found a way to make up those city costs without cutting into the county's general fund.

"The good news is, because interest rates are so low and the county's bond rating is extremely high, that means we're able to get more money out of the revenue we get from the annual vehicle registration fee," Cogen said. 

The deal may also provide relief for the Portland Bureau of Transportation, which has a $4.5 million shortfall in next year's budget, partly because of Sellwood Bridge construction costs.

"It would [help]," says PBOT spokeswoman Cheryl Kuck. "However, it could be that those payments offset the library taxing district so we're simply flash on this."

The announcement comes one morning after city and county officials talked about increased cooperation upon the election of Charlie Hales as Portland's next mayor. But Cogen and Adams have been negotiating the deal for two months.

"It's only in the last week or two that it's come together," Cogen says.

 
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