Portland Voters To Decide $48 Million A Year Parks Levy

Photo: Luuwit View Park

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.

Source: City of Portland

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