This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 27, 2006 8:50 AM. The previous post in this blog was Holiday weekend wrap-up. The next post in this blog is On the hook at the PDC. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Gimme, gimme, gimme the wonky tonk blues

A reader who really keeps up with the shenanigans at Portland City Hall sent me an e-mail message the other day, pointing me to this chubby document (pdf) -- an official analysis of the city's current budget situation in light of the "surplus" they're anticipating over the originally approved budget for the year. The paper is dated last Monday, and there's an agenda item on this coming Wednesday's City Council agenda that reads: "Adopt the FY 2006-07 fall major supplemental budget in the amount of $10,926,075 and make budget amendments in three funds (Ordinance introduced by Mayor Potter)." Apparently the two are related, but you have to do a fair amount of clicking on the city's website to navigate between them both. Would it kill the city to put links to the underlying documents right in the agenda? Maybe MetroFi and Microsoft could help...

Anyway, our correspondent skimmed through the whole 170 pages, and points up a couple of eye-openers:

On page 22, the appropriation for the Floating Twinkies (PHART) [rim shot] is increased by $9.1 million. It says it does not increase the total cost of the project -- presumably this is the deal from earlier in the year. Anyway, that might appear to take most of the total of $10.9 million in extra money being allocated by the recommendations of the Office of Finance & Management, except at the bottom of page 42 it says the money is coming out of the LID fund and be "offset by an increase in LID Note Sale revenues." Who knows what's really going behind the smoke and mirrors?

Page 46 has some interesting stuff. Remember when Fireman Randy recently seized control of water billing, putting it back under his water bureau, and taking it away from the revenue bureau? Apparently that will cost the city an extra $240,000 a year due to not being able to share support staff and a supervisor. And check out page 47 -- the revenue bureau took out a lease on more space for the billing personnel, to 2011, leaving them holding the tab for $103,000 for six months until June 2007, and no idea what they're going to do with the extra space through 2011. Oops.

On page 52, we're about to spend $83,000 for the Bureau of Planning to move from the 3rd floor of the 1900 SW 4th building to the 7th floor. This includes $20,000 for temporary staff to archive a backlog of files before the move. I'd pay more to move them to Boise.

And on page 129, the usually bland report steps a little out of character to speak plain English: "Employee satisfaction within the Parks Bureau continues to decline dramatically. Last year's decline was attributed to a major reorganization that took place, but it is disconcerting that this trend is continuing." Indeed, the parks bureau has turned "disconcerting" into an art form.

But hey! Why read a snarky little summary here, when there are 170 pages just waiting to fill you with reading pleasure? As they say, read the whole thing. I dare you to try. Even if you don't make it all the way through, let us know what you noticed before your head hit the keyboard.

UPDATE, 4:35 p.m.: LocalNewsDaily has picked up on the water billing story. Some days I think I should send the local media an invoice for freelance assignment editor work.

Comments (6)

Does it say anything about the Bureau of Communications? Cause that place is rife with 'employee dis-satisfaction' along with chronic short staffing and mandatory overtime.

I'll go look

It is pretty sad what is happening over at parks. There are alot of good people over there, and they feel powerless not empowered as good management practice would dictate.

It is also sad that the public is given less than a week's notice to review 170 pages of staff recommendations on how to spend taxpayer money. Where was the opportunity for citizen input into this package? Oh, that's right, we were busy "visioning". How about we envision spending money on assigning a planner to update tree protection rules in the code, which citizens have been requesting for at least four years, instead of spending $83k on moving staff from one floor of the 1900 building to another?

The proposed spending includes a revision to the financing of studying installing a fiber-optic network (hopefully one that could be more successful than the failure in Ashland). The previous plan called for $100k from the city, $100k from PDC. The new proposal is $150k, all from the General Fund. That's right, PDC will be sticking an extra $50k bill on the rest of the city's taxpayers outside of the urban renewal areas.

Does anyone know more about the proposal to take money from the Parks Trust Fund and use it for general operations, PIR, and golf?

I'm not familiar with the Parks Trust Fund whatsoever but I'm curious as to why some of the money shouldn't be used for PIR, given that it's a public park just the same as Mt. Tabor and others.

Joey: "The facility is owned and operated by the City of Portland through its bureau of Parks and Recreation. The raceway is operated as an Enterprise Fund, meaning that its operating expenses and capital improvements are covered by the revenues that it generates, as the raceway receives no general fund tax dollars."
~ From the PIR web site

My question above relates to my not being able to track the shell game with the Trust Fund money as described in the 170 page document, near the bottom of page 127. It states: "Transfer from Parks Trust Fund: $305,731 - As noted above, Parks is proposing to transfer funds out of the Parks Trust Fund and into the General Fund, the PIR Fund, and the Golf Fund. The request for PIR involves transferring an accumulated fund balance in the North Portland Trust of $265,581. In addition, an ongoing revenue stream of $40,150 is being transferred from the Trust Fund to PIR for the North Portland Trust Fund and the PIR Timing Tower. These funds will be used to support noise reduction efforts in North Portland."

Maybe I'm not understanding this because of my exhaustion hangover from an exceptionally busy weekend working on an inpatient psychiatric ward. But I wonder if the folks in North Portland who know about the North Portland Trust fund and PIR issues better than I do, are OK with this proposal.

It is also sad that the public is given less than a week's notice to review 170 pages of staff recommendations on how to spend taxpayer money.

C'mon, Amanda...there's a whole half hour between time certain items for Council discussion and public testimony on the spending of millions of dollars!

What's funny --or at least ironic-- is that I was able to link to the report here first. I didn't know it was available. Thanks, Jack.

Anyway, whatever the motivations behind the dismantling of the Revenue Bureau, there's no getting away from the reality that several years of planning --and actually improved customer service-- not to mention the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars--will be the result of the rollback of the Revenue Bureau reform effort.

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