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Monday, February 1, 2010

Another half-billion-plus in debt for the City of Portland

In addition to the $12 million line of credit that the City of Portland's planning to sign up for this week for the Paulson stadium affair, they're borrowing $72.7 million in the next few days for water projects; $430 million over the next few months for more sewer projects; and $30 million sometime this spring for "urban renewal" noodling in the Lents neighborhood. That's $544.7 million.

With a population currently sitting at about 586,500, we are talking about another $929 in debt for every man, woman, and child who lives in the city -- and if you count unfunded pension and retiree health care liabilities, the total city debt will balloon to well over $6 billion by this summer. Back in September 2007, when we first started studying the city's finances, it was about $2 billion less than that.

Go by streetcar!

Comments (11)

We're getting close - Over/under on the $10K/citizen number?

Obviously, looking at stuff like what PWB and MP are doing, this number means nothing to City Council.

I am shocked (you think I'd learn by now) at the gall of throwing even more money at Lents Urban Renewal after all of the success they have been having down there so far.

Go by streetcar? Go buy streetcar.

As for the "urban renewal" bonds, they are borrowing more money to make the Portland Development Commission's payroll.

Jack, have the components of the pension/retiree healthcare obligations that you track changed since your first post in 2007?

If not, that would mean that over half of the $2 billion debt growth since then is due to increases in pension and healthcare obligations.

The pension numbers are pretty soft. Part of the increase is due to the market crash, which left the city's PERS deal in the hole. Most of the pension debt is to police and fire. They changed actuaries last year, and the actuaries changed the assumptions in the calculations, so the picture changed. Since the actuaries don't actually dig in except every other year, we won't see the real growth pattern over the last three years until a year from now. They'll probably change the assumptions again, too. On the streets of New York City, this is called three-card monty.

BTW - Since we are talking about MP (at least obliquely), you might want to look at this:


Dad has a few things to say about greedy bankers.

I dunno. We've got such aging water and sewer infrastructure, all the spending on those items may be justified, and I don't think we're the only city dealing with that right now. But for transparency's sake all the projects to be funded better be posted publicly somewhere (in part so we can ferret out if Randy's sneaking in the outfitting of his water constabulary).

I agree the Lents renewal borrowing is dubious; has anyone studied if the investments so far have yielded any of the promised benefits yet? But it is nice to see some dough showered on the working-class stiffs of SE for a change rather than the west-side swells.

Another $929 per person liability? That's easy to take care for the people involved. Move and shazam your debt is absolved, man I should go for a job in the finance department.

Hey, lets not forget the additional $600 million they need to implement the "Bicycle Master Plan".


My family will be living comfortably across some other jurisdictional boundary before they can get $30,000 from us.

The out-migration will be something to behold if the city goes bankrupt and tries to compensate by hiking taxes. Bye bye.

You are right on the money, Snards. I cleared outta the city when Diane Linn & co. shoved through that shady retroactive tax surcharge a few years back on all Mult. County residents.

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