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Friday, February 1, 2013

Low blood pressure? Here's what you need.

Here's a crazy document on the City of Portland website. Lots of dollars -- around 24 million clams -- for all sorts of crazy stuff, much of which doesn't seem like a proper government function at all. And look at the bottom -- a shadowy $6.6 million for "schools funding."

We love schools, but there are rules in the Oregon Constitution about how much money can be spent on schools out of property tax revenues. We've long suspected that the city has been breaking those rules. Documents like this one, whatever it is, certainly don't persuade us to the contrary.

Comments (4)

What you won't find on this list are Water Bureau so called "one-time" expenditures, some of which were beyond questionable.
There is good reason why "the consumer-advocacy group OSPIRG gave Portland a D-minus in a national ranking of city government spending transparency." WW Jan. 23 Murmurs column, http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-20183-murmurs_greenlick_vs_the_crc.html

Your point about the city funding schools is a good one. Since when is funding schools a municipal function in Oregon? Is that even a legally allowable use of city money?

Your point about the separate constitutional limits on property taxes for education and for general government is also excellent.It would be interesting to see if the Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission ever considered this question when reviewing Portland's budget. The TSCC annual report is here, though I haven't looked at it closely: http://tsccmultco.com/graphics/12-13annualreport.pdf

I did take a look at Article XI, section 11b of the Oregon Constitution. Here's a key sentence: "During and after the fiscal year 1991-92, taxes imposed upon any property shall be separated into two categories: One which dedicates revenues raised specifically to fund the public school system and one which dedicates revenues raised to fund government operations other than the public school system." This seems to imply that levies for general governmental purposes, like the city's levy, are dedicated to purposes other than funding the public school system. The word "dedicates" looks like a limitation on use of the funds, but I suppose that's a question for the courts.

I think I see the problem with the constitutional argument. Doesn't the city get general fund money from sources other than property taxes, such as the business license fee? All it has to do is specify in the budget that money for school funding comes from one of these other sources and the property tax question is avoided. But it still leaves the question of whether using city money to fund schools is allowed under the city's charter.

I see where they can save some money...
Special Appropriations has about $1 million dollars to be squandered on special interest projects.

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