City’s top ‘money man’ presents Portland Budget Training class

See what this expert on Portland’s budget says to keep an eye on, at the upcoming community budget meetings. This finance expert spills the beans, and shares how you – from the comfort of your own computer – can view this valuable information …

Andrew Scott, the Financial Planning Manager at the City of Portland’s Office of Management and Finance shows outer East Portland citizens how to “follow the money” – by familiarizing them with the City Budget document, and how to find and navigate its online tools.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Considering the importance of impending budget decisions that lie ahead for the Portland City Council, it was surprising that only a handful of outer East Portland folks took advantage of the “City of Portland Budget Training” seminar.

Andrew Scott, the Financial Planning Manager at the City of Portland’s Office of Management and Finance, showed attendees how to understand the Portland City Budget document. The class was sponsored by the East Portland Action Plan, and held at David Douglas High School on February 24.

In simple terms, Scott explained how the City takes in and spends money during its budget cycle. He also answered questions posed by the attendees.

Understanding the budget’s structure
Scott began outlining the difference between Portland’s General Fund and its Non-General Fund. He also discussed the difference between one-time and ongoing funding of programs.

While his explanations were clear and concise, we’ll not attempt to reproduce the whole class in this article. A good explanation is to be found, he said, on the City of Portland’s website: CLICK HERE to bring up that webpage.

Scott outlines the City of Portland budgeting process.

Portland’s budgeting process
The Portland City Council doesn’t simply rubber-stamp a budget document handed to them, Scott said. Instead, he outlined the budget process the Council goes through, which this time, runs from October of 2009 through May of 2010, and includes many forums and public meetings.

As part of his presentation, Scott showed those attending how to find information, such as on the budget process, on the Internet.

> To view the City of Portland’s 2010 “Budget Process” pamphlet (it’s a PDF document)  CLICK HERE.

Says information aids understanding
“It’s kind of a difficult year for the City and budgeting,” Scott told us after the seminar. “I think that a lot of the input from citizens at forums and hearings does get relayed back to the Portland City Council. It can influence the decisions that the Council ultimately makes on the budget. So, it’s important to understand the budget before one advocates for cutting or adding a program.”

Two of the most important areas of which citizens should be aware, Scott said, are what are called “cuts” and “adds”.

“The Portland City Counsel has already asked most Bureaus to make cuts of 4%; public safety has been asked to cut 2%,” Scott explained. “It’s important to know where those cuts will be made; they affect levels of service, going forward.”

“Adds” are new programs – those will also be under close scrutiny. “It’s important to be aware of all of the ‘add requests’ that have been coming in. This information will help people understand what needs various groups are asking to be addressed.”

Taking a look at the City’s Community Budget” webpage – and reading some of the documents – will help prepare citizens for better advocating at Budget Forums, Scott says.

Online tools help prepare Budget Forum goers
Instead of showing up at a Portland Budget Forum unprepared, Scott advised citizens to avail themselves of the many resources available on the City’s Internet website. “It contains tables of ‘cuts’ and ‘adds’, and a wide variety of informative information.”

> To view Portland’s “Community Budget” homepage, CLICK HERE.

SE Portland Forum scheduled for March 3
At the March 3rd City of Portland Community Budget Forum – from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. – you’ll have the opportunity to hear from, and give feedback to, officials from all of the City Bureaus. This forum takes place at Mt. Scott Community Center, SE 72nd Avenue and Harold Street.

And, in outer East Portland on March 6, another City of Portland Community Budget Forum will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the IRCO Community Space located at 10301 NE Glisan Street.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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