PP&R, Portland Fire & Rescue Seek Sustainable Funding

News Article
Bureaus Undertaking Polling; Seeking to Address Infrastructure Needs and to Enhance Community Services

(Portland, OR) –

Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) and Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) are facing similar challenges: Continuing to provide services to meet community needs while maintaining the public infrastructure that supports all Portlanders. Currently, both PP&R and PF&R are managing failing public infrastructure that needs to be improved or replaced for the bureaus to meet the public’s needs.  

Under the direction of Vibrant Communities Commissioner Dan Ryan and Public Safety Commissioner Rene Gonzalez, who oversee PP&R and PF&R respectively, both bureaus are working together to evaluate funding options for programs and infrastructure essential to a safe and revitalized city. This effort is to support ongoing services, address service gaps, and repair or replace failing facilities. 

Children play on a rock wall, with a stationary xylophone, and other play elements at the Lents Park playground in SE Portland, on a sunny day.

City Commissioners Ryan and Gonzalez have directed their bureaus to work together to conduct community engagement over the coming months to learn more about how best to invest in parks and recreation and fire and rescue services in Portland.  

"Portland parks are where we play and seek refuge in beauty; we must protect these assets for generations to come. We also know Portlanders are experiencing significant tax burdens, so we need to balance existing taxes with new bond measures. Portlanders must have their voices heard in what services they want and how they want their public resources invested." says Commissioner Ryan.   

“Our public safety infrastructure has faced substantial underinvestment for years  and I am dedicated to ensuring we position the city of Portland to once again be one of the safest cities in America.  At the same time, with strategic investments in Parks, we have the potential to galvanize smart public/private partnerships to position the city for the next 20 years and keep Portlanders playing,” says Commissioner Gonzalez.   

In November, PP&R and PF&R commissioned a poll of likely voters for the November 2024 election. The poll found seventy percent of respondents are satisfied with the quality of services provided by Portland Fire & Rescue and seventy-five percent are satisfied with services provided by Portland Parks & Recreation. Additionally, most community members answered that they visit a park or recreation center at least weekly. 

The poll found the strongest support for a bond when facility repairs and improvements were proposed for both Portland Parks & Recreation and Portland Fire & Rescue together. Top priorities from potential voters included fire emergencies and urban wildfire response, maintaining water quality in local rivers and streams, protecting parks and natural areas, planting and maintaining trees, providing free and low-cost recreation programs for kids, families, and seniors, and repairing and restoring parks and recreation facilities. 

The highest support was for a renewal of the Parks Five-year Local Option Levy (Parks Levy)―continuing to preserve parks, recreation, nature, water, and improve safety. 

Today, approximately one-third of PP&R’s operations are funded by the Parks Levy, now in year three of five. To sustain operational service levels, Portland voters would need to renew or replace the Parks Levy in 2025. Also, the parks and recreation system has been and continues to be underfunded to meet capital maintenance needs; a separate category of work outside operational funding. This growing challenge has led to nearly $600 million in deferred maintenance and replacements to facilities, playgrounds, bridges, and other assets. Without new, stable funding, the bureau predicts that one in five PP&R facilities and assets will fail in the next 15 years. 

“Portland Parks & Recreation is committed to establishing a financially sustainable direction, that aligns equitable service and funding levels for the long term,” says PP&R Director Adena Long.

The Bond and Levy Feasibility Survey from December 2023 can be found on PP&R's Sustainable Futures web page: www.portland.gov/parks/document…;

To learn more about Portland Parks & Recreation Sustainable Future Program visit: www.portland.gov/parks/sustainable-future