Mayor Charlie Hales announced this afternoon that his office has cobbled together money from a mix of public and private sources to preserve a list of city programs citizens fought to keep from the budget chopping block.
Those last-minute salvages from $21.5 million in budget cuts include keeping the Police Bureau's Mounted Patrol Unit, Buckman Pool and two programs that aid victims of sex trafficking. Citizens have loudly protested all three cuts in the past month.
"Public hearings matter," Hales told reporters at a roundtable in City Hall. "When people show up and have an opinion, this City Council listens."
The most complicated reprieve is the mounted patrol, which will be reduced from six horseback officers to four.
Staffing for the mounted patrol will come from other police vacancies identified by Police Chief Mike Reese, but the money for the animals' feed and care is being covered by private donations—most of which have yet to be raised.
The advocacy group Friends of Portland's Mounted Patrol, backed by Pearl District developer Bob Ball, has promised to increase its annual donation to $200,000 for the next two years. Feed supplier Maxson Hay is donating a year's supply of hay, worth at least $15,000.
"The police chief sharpened his pencil," Hales said. "The city is making a little hay here, har har har."
Ball—who has saved the mounties before—rejoiced, and pledged to raise the $200,000 through social media.
“We want to thank the Mayor and the Council for listening to the people of Portland, and those around the world, who advocated for the Mounted Patrol,” said Ball in a statement. “We’ll be launching a fundraising campaign in the coming days on our Facebook page, but for today, we just want to say ‘thank you.’”The money for Southeast Portland's perennially endangered Buckman Pool, meanwhile, comes from funds leftover from the city's last parks levy. The $88,762 was supposed to go to a revamp of downtown O'Bryant Square, but that project has been scrapped.
Hales also passed along $277,000 in savings—from the city's victory in a telecommunications lawsuit and bridge funding for retiring employees—to Janus Youth Programs and LifeWorks NOW, which both aid victims of sex trafficking, mostly in East Portland.
Hales emphasized that the last items spared from the budget are coming from other pools of
money than the city's general fund: community donations, levy funds, CenturyLink lawsuit win.
But he acknowledged that many of the programs he saved are traditionally offered up by bureaus as a scare tactic.
"I understand the perception, and I'll take the hits," Hales said. "I'm content where we ended up."