Thursday, May 18, 2023

Portland Mayor Calls for One-Year Freeze on City Taxes and Fees

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced last week his intention to propose a one-year freeze on nearly all city tax, fee, and utility rate increases in an attempt to aid recovery from economic hardship. The only exception might be a rise in water bills, required to cover the debt for the city's new, federally mandated water treatment plant. This proposed freeze could substantially alter next year's budget, possibly leading to cuts or reductions in municipal services. Wheeler believes this freeze is vital for the city's recovery, stating, "Our focus this year has to be recovery and helping our community to make a comeback."

Wheeler's announcement follows a meeting with regional leaders to discuss what he referred to as the "collective tax burden" currently affecting households and businesses. He expressed concern that residents of Portland are already overwhelmed by escalating taxes, utility rates, and fees. Proposed hikes currently under review by Portland city bureaus include a 6.6% increase in water and sewer services, a 20% rise in parking meter rates, and a 5% hike across several building and development permits. The Portland Bureau of Transportation is considering a monthly tax on residents and businesses to help patch up its transportation budget. Wheeler acknowledged that the freeze, which he plans to advocate for during a City Council work session, would likely necessitate significant adjustments in his proposed $7.1 billion budget.

"Everything has tradeoffs, and one tradeoff is that we would potentially have to reduce or eliminate some services that we provide," he said. "We have to balance that against the reality that our taxpayers are tapped out. They are on economically unstable ground. Families are hurting."


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