Riverton library, minority affairs dominate Portland budget comments
PORTLAND — The City Council is considering sparing two executive positions and a library branch originally marked for elimination in the fiscal 2011 budget.
The city Finance Committee has also recommended that the Police Department receive about $26,000 to provide extra summer weekend patrols on Peaks Island.
The committee recommendation to the full City Council totals $196.3 million, which is nearly $200,000 more than City Manager Joe Gray's proposed budget. But the committee also added revenue to the budget in the form of land sales ($313,500) and vital records fees from the state ($75,000).
Those changes would produce a property tax increase of 1 percent. Combined with the council-approved school budget of $89.9 million, the mil rate would be $17.92 per $1,000 of assessed value, or an 18-cent increase.
The Finance Committee recommendation would add $90,000 to the library budget in order to keep the Riverton branch open for one year. Riverton, along with the branches at Reiche School and East End Community School, were recommended for closure in the budget.
The proposed Riverton closure drew a lot of public comment at a budget hearing Monday night at City Hall.
Chip Edgar of the Riverton Community Association told councilors he often uses the branch with his two children. He also said it is an important place for neighborhood kids.
"A lot of kids hang out at that library in the summer," Edgar said.
Cecille DeRoche-Cain, another Riverton resident, said the neighborhood is not a high-income area, and kids use the library to get their homework done.
"You go into that library and it's packed every single time," she said.
The committee also expressed reluctance to close Riverton because the branch is more removed from others in the city.
The council also heard from several residents about the need for a full-time multicultural affairs director, a position that Gray recommended be reduced to part-time.
The Finance Committee is recommending using grant money to restore the position to full time, with the added job responsibility of promoting minority business development. Economic development grants would also be used to restore a business development representative position marked for elimination in the manager's budget.
The total grant funding, which would come from the Portland Downtown Corp., totals $83,000.
The Rev. Kenneth Lewis, of the Green Memorial AME Zion Church, said he believes funding the multicultural affairs position with grant money equates to a only "one-year reprieve."
"I think it needs to be a 1.5 full-time (position) if you are really going to be serious about meeting the needs of a growing community," Lewis said.
The original proposal from the city manager recommended cutting police on Peaks Island from two officers to one, which would save about $200,000.
A firefighter would be assigned to the island full-time to provide emergency medical support.
The Peaks Island Council, however, has asked the city to assign two officers to the island 24 hours a day, all year. Leaders of the police union have also urged councilors to maintain the two-officer island patrol.
The City Council is scheduled to vote on the 2011 city budget May 17 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall.
Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org