Portland City Council Refers Operating Levy To The November 2020 Ballot

Press release

Proposed levy would raise approximately $48 million per year if approved

Published
Updated
Blue banner that reads Mayor Ted Wheeler, City of Portland, press release.

Portland City Council voted today to refer an operating levy for Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) to the November 2020 ballot.

“This is a critical first step toward fulfilling our shared vision for a more stable parks bureau that can better serve all Portlanders,” said Mayor Wheeler, who also serves as Parks Commissioner. "The challenges caused by COVID-19 have made it clear that this levy is not only responsive to the bureau’s urgent financial needs, but will also improve services during a time when Portlanders have been relying on free lunches, outdoor spaces, and other Parks programs now more than ever.”

The proposed levy of $0.80 per $1,000 of Assessed Value would raise approximately $48 million per year for five years if approved by voters. A homeowner with a home valued at $200,000 Assessed Value, slightly above Portland’s median value, would pay approximately $150 per year. Levy funds would be allocated by City Council during the annual budget process. Some examples of allowable uses include:

  • Making access to programs and services more equitable, including offering more free programs for low-income households and ensuring that cost is not a barrier to accessing community centers, pools, and recreational programming;
  • Improving the bureau’s ability to keep parks and natural areas clean, safe, and well-maintained; and
  • Planting new trees in parks.

The referral documents, including a full list of what levy dollars could fund, can be found here.

“This conversation is about the future of Portland Parks & Recreation, and by extension, the future of Portland. It’s about making Portland a healthier, more equitable community,” PP&R Director Adena Long said at the hearing. “Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, our challenges are greater than ever, and the need for solutions is more urgent. Portland Parks & Recreation and the role we play in the community, is at a crossroads.”

PP&R held a work session with City Council on November 26, 2019 to get feedback about how best to align bureau funding levels with community expectations. Unlike many other City services, PP&R depends on fees from customers who attend swim lessons, exercise classes, summer camps, and paid recreation programs to fund those programs. Fees fund nearly $15 million of the $35 million budget for the bureau’s Recreation Division.

In early March, PP&R closed community centers and pools, canceled summer recreation programming, and took other steps to comply with public health guidance and limit the spread of COVID-19. The extended closure has created a financial challenge for the bureau because of its dependence on fees.

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