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Mayor Ted Wheeler Unveils 2020-21 Budget, With No Layoffs Yet

The city still faces a $9.3 million funding gap, which will require concessions from unions.

Mayor Ted Wheeler today released the details of the city of Portland's 2020-21 budget.

City budget director Jessica Kinard and city economist Josh Harwood had previously told the Portland City Council to expect a $75 million hole in the city's general fund because of expected COVID-19-related shortfalls in the collection of business, hotel and other taxes.

The 2020-21 general fund budget is now projected to be $517.7 million.

Speaking to reporters today from his kitchen via Zoom, Wheeler described how the city will make up that shortfall: eliminating $28.5 million in projected new spending; squeezing about $30 million from current-year spending through furloughs; freezing pay and other costs; and drawing down reserves. Those measures all save nearly $66 million, leaving a current gap of $9.3 million.

Wheeler said he has asked the labor unions that represent city employees to agree to concessions that will save that amount, so the city can avoid laying off full-time employees. He said those conversations are proceeding amicably and he hopes to have them resolved by May 20, when the City Council is scheduled to approve the budget. (Nearly 1,000 seasonal and part-time Portland Parks & Recreation workers have either been laid off or not hired because of COVID-19-caused shutdowns of various programs.)

Should the unions refuse to accept furloughs or other compensation reductions, Wheeler said, "everything is on the table."

Although the city is making cuts, Wheeler said there's enough money to maintain the current level of commitment to the Joint Office of Homeless Services.

Wheeler noted the city will continue to invest in rent assistance and other programs that help families deal with the economic wreckage caused by the pandemic, but he was realistic about what the next year could bring.

"This was an inequitable society before C-19 and it will be worse afterwards," Wheeler said.