Understanding the various funding sources for Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) is necessary for the effective operation of the bureau, for maintaining public trust, and for ensuring that we continue to meet the needs of the community in a sustainable and accountable way. It's essential not just for PP&R, but for policymakers and those we serve.
Below is a list of PP&R funding sources with explanations and examples. If you can't find the information about our funding sources you're looking for on this page, try visiting our "Frequently Asked Questions About Our Funding Sources" page.
General Fund Tax Dollars
PP&R is allowed to use General Fund dollars on operating costs, capital maintenance, and capital growth with City Council budgetary approval.
The City’s General Fund revenue comes from a variety of sources, with property taxes being the largest, and business license fees, utility license fees, and transient lodging taxes rounding out the four major sources.
General Fund tax dollars are allocated through the City of Portland’s annual budget process, with the budget approved by City Council. For fiscal year (FY) 2023-24, the City of Portland allocated $84.5 million in its budget for PP&R. Of that total, only 5.6% (or about $5 million) is allocated toward capital major maintenance. Typically, PP&R receives about 12% of the City of Portland's total General Fund discretionary budget.
System Development Charges
PP&R is only allowed to use system development charge (SDC) funds for capital growth. The bureau cannot use these funds for operating costs or capital maintenance projects. Oregon law provides for establishment of SDC fees for transportation, water, wastewater (sewer), stormwater, and parks and recreation facilities. Per the Oregon Revised Statutes, SDC funds can’t be used for operations and maintenance of park facilities.
System development charges are one-time fees assessed on new development. They help ensure Portland's quality of life keeps pace with our growing and changing city by providing the additional parks and recreation facilities needed to accommodate the city's growth. When a new home or commercial development is built in Portland, we need to expand the park system to meet the needs of a growing population. Collecting system development charges from development helps pay for that park system growth. System development charges must be used for capital projects that expand the capacity of the park system, like acquiring new land, developing new parks or facilities, or expanding existing parks or facilities.
Parks Local Option Levy (Parks Levy)
PP&R is only allowed to use Parks Levy funds on operating costs. The bureau is not allowed to use Parks Levy funds on capital maintenance or capital growth.
Overwhelmingly approved by Portland voters in November 2020, the Parks Levy is a property tax of $0.80 per $1,000 of assessed value. It will raise approximately $48 million per year for five years, starting in fall of 2021. The levy will provide crucial operating funding for Portland's parks and recreation system, including PP&R's efforts to conserve parks, nature, and clean water.
The Parks Levy allowed the bureau to avoid devastating service cuts and make progress on operating services, but it is a temporary funding solution that does not solve the bureau’s long-term financial needs. The Parks Levy is providing about one-third of PP&R’s operating cost.
Parks Levy funds support three categories of operating services:
- Recreation for All: Protect hundreds of living-wage jobs to deliver recreation services and keep community centers and pools open; pilot financial models designed to reduce cost as a barrier to access.
- Protect and Grow Nature: Add living-wage jobs to improve the daily care of our trees, natural areas, and developed parks, including cleaning parks and keeping public restrooms open, performing pro-active tree maintenance, and planting trees.
- Community Partnerships: Strengthen community partnerships by establishing the Parks Levy Oversight Committee, expand the community grant program, and deepen partnerships that support park services.
Grants and Donations
PP&R is allowed to use grant and donation dollars on operating costs, capital maintenance, and capital growth. Grant and donation funding is dependent on grantor or donor decisions.
PP&R applies for and receives a variety of grants and donations to fund parks and recreation services. In FY 2023-24, budgeted allocations for grants and donations total about $13.7 million, with donations making up 2% of that total. The funding is budgeted to both operating expenses and capital growth. Approximately 88% is allocated for capital growth and the remaining 12% for operating expenses.
Service Charges, Permits, and Fees
PP&R charges fees for some of the services we provide. These are used to recover a portion of the cost to provide those services. Examples include:
- Fees for swim lessons, sports field or other venue permits, and other recreation and arts activities.
- Parking fees at various locations to support the operations and maintenance of those and other properties.
- Permits related to the City’s Tree Code, which are used to offset a portion of the cost to provide Urban Forestry services or to fund tree planting and preservation associated with development activities.
- Non-Park Use Permits, which are issued for things like permitting temporary use of City property. These revenues are generally used to fund project management and address property impacts as a result of the non-park use being permitted. Examples include making repairs, performing inspections, and reviewing projects.
Intergovernmental and Interagency Agreements
Intergovernmental and interagency agreements are established to perform work for or on behalf of other entities. PP&R receives funding associated with these agreements, and the funding supports the costs required to perform that work.
Examples include agreements with other City of Portland bureaus and offices such as the Bureau of Transportation or the Bureau of Environmental Services, as well as with other entities such as Multnomah County or Metro.
Special Revenue "Trust Funds"
Certain funds are restricted by their nature. Among such restrictions may be elements of City Code, budget law, government accounting standards, or restrictions placed on their use by donors.
The City of Portland establishes Special Revenue Funds to separately hold and track the use of these resources based on the nature of their use restrictions. PP&R has roughly 70 of these. Some of the largest include the Tree Planting and Preservation Fund, the Washington Park Transportation Fund, and the Urban Forestry Fund. Each has a specific set of restrictions on what the fund's money can be spent on.
PP&R is only allowed to use bond funds on capital projects. Bond funds can be used for both capital maintenance and capital growth. The bureau is not allowed to use bonds to fund operating costs.
Bond funds used for capital maintenance address things like big repairs or replacements of existing park facilities such as playgrounds, trails, or buildings.
Bond funds used for capital growth are for building new facilities to provide equitable services to Portlanders.
Portland voters passed the most recent bond, the $68 million Parks Replacement Bond, in 2014. The bond funded repairs and replacements for over 50 park projects throughout Portland parks and recreation system, and replaced a 1994 bond that was ending. Today, the 2014 replacement bond is nearing completion and has no remaining funding for additional maintenance projects.
PP&R will also be receiving $32 million in funding from Metro's 2019 Bond to Protect and Connect Nature and People, which will be used to fund local projects that align with Metro's bond priorities.
Learn more about the 2014 Parks Replacement Bond.
Learn more about the local share of the Metro Parks and Nature Bond and the projects it will fund.