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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 14, 2008 4:29 PM. The previous post in this blog was A moment of silence. The next post in this blog is Tough day for Whole Foods. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The doulas will be on their own

It's truly amazing to watch the Portland City Council act like a middle school student government over the city budget. They're clucking around over $45,000 here, $200,000 there, when the big number is the $2 billion of police and fire pension liabilities that nothing's being set aside to pay.

Eventually, those chickens are going to come home to roost in the Rose City, and it is going to get very, very unpleasant.

Comments (12)

The MSM does not cover this issue--same goes for 9 trillion federal debt. Let's just pretend it doesn't exist. Glad I don't have any offspring to inherit this monster debt.

I just keep asking myself, How can any rational responsible people not get the picture.

How can we have over $100 million/annually reported one month in ongoing operation and maintenance shortfall, that allows the taxpayers investment in the City's Parks, Roads, and infrastructure systems to rot away and then declare a $30+ million "surplus" to spend on frills.

How can we keep electing these folks.

How can we keep electing these folks?

Well, there you are. We do, and so they keep on borrowing. Why not?

Well to paraphrase Joseph Stalin, $40,000 is real money $2 billion is just a statistic.

Greg C

There's a reason government schools don't push financial education. They want an electorate with no financial common sense. Then too, a large chunk of the Portland electorate has very little property. Many of these folks actually benefit from the spendthrift ways of cityhall without risks of sharp increases in their city tax bills. They are footlose too boot, and have an ability to quickly escape the city's debt collectors.

One other point: There's a big difference between state and local debt and federal debt. The latter has a "get-out-of-jail" card with the ability to print new money, while the former have no such means to devalue its debts. The main get-out-of-jail card state and local governments have is their taxing authority. And so its the folks with property who didn't escape the likes of Portland city fast enough that stand to lose a chunk for the spendthrift ways of cityhall.

Unfortunately, nothing is likely to change at the local or state level for the forseeable future regarding public spending habits. Hit the E flat, and get ready to sing da blues.

funding the police & fire pensions will really not be a problem, because the city general fund is obligated to pay any deficit that occurs. They'll simply fire a lot of the current cops and firefighters so that they can pay the pensions of the lucky retirees. It's helluva system that Randy Leonard invented, but he has no worries because he will get paid in any event. Vote for leonard - a vote for fiscal responsibility!

"funding the police & fire pensions will really not be a problem"

Correct, that is a top line debt and gets paid before schools, roads, puiblic safety. Randy designed it, so he knows how this stuff works.

Do we set aside something in this budget cycle to make a payment on a bond in the next budget cycle?

Distinguish one from the other, please.

If we make a change in pay for a current year should we not also demand an accounting of how such change affects the present value calculation for future payments, and contemporaneously bargain over the same? Failure to do so would be like borrowing money but not stating the repayment terms; not even a valid contract. This should be the first line of inquiry.

If your house payment on a fixed interest 30 year mortgage doubled overnight would your first thought be "Oh how am I ever going to pay it, and save today to make all those future -- EXTRA -- payments?" Absurd.

pdxnag - when it comes to collective bargaining, the city is at the mercy of oregon state rules for such things. Guess who wrote the rules? Randy Leonard & Teddy Kulongoski. in other words - dream on.

Fire and Police Disability is a line item on your tax bill. It is funded directly from taxes collected and doesn't go through the General Fund budgeting process other than the amount needed to satisfy the obligation is deducted from the available discretionary funds left to take care of other city services. The feature of the Police and Fire Disability as well as the other line item on your property tax bill, Urban Renewal, covered by the same state legislation that gave you both of these "off the top" taxes, is that neither is subject to the limit of 3% a year increase the rest of your taxes are. Jack is right as the Fire and Police Disability grows out of control, it will "compress" the rest of the General Fund dollars available to do other services.
This is why GASB #34 (Government Accounting Standard Board Rule #34) was passed. Existing statute in most cases requires local and state governments to "balance the budget" each year, so they don't mortgage the farm. For the first time GASB #34 required pensions and deferred maintenance be accounted for on the entities balance sheet and listed as an expense in the year it was encumbered. It was supposed to keep governments from deferring maintenance and repairs which which generally will cost an organization over time 30% more to repair when things fail then preventive maintenance to avoid failure of systems.

However in Portland, they have balanced the books by cutting maintenance and building lots of new stuff instead of reinvesting in the stuff they have to prevent premature failure and have just aggravated the problem the next generation of politicos will face.


Is the Adams/Leonard alternate budget published anywhere?

you can find the alternate budget on the city website as the first council agenda item for their meeting yesterday - i think it is item 606. however, it lists the changes a gross amounts by fund, and doesn't give any detail. you may be able to get the detail by contacting the city budget office.


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