Youth Take Big Hits in City of Portland Budget Cuts
Sixty youth attend Multnomah Youth Commission meeting to voice their views
Helen Silvis Of The Skanner News
April 11, 2012
More than 60 youth met at the Ecotrust Building April 7, to discuss the City of Portland budget
Portland’s children and youth are in line to take big hits in the City of Portland’s 2012-13 budget. Budget proposals currently under consideration by the council include deep cuts to programs that serve the city’s most disadvantaged youth.
City bureaus were asked to submit proposals that included a 4 percent cut package, a 6 percent cut package, and an 8 percent cuts package.
“It’s probably going to be closer to 6 percent,” Commissioner Amanda Fritz told The Skanner News. “We’re still waiting to hear about fees revenues.”
Fritz stressed that the final decisions on cuts have not been made. And she said citizen feedback can make a big difference to the final outcome.
Proposed cuts include:
• Eliminating grants for four street gang outreach workers
• Eliminating support for the Restorative Justice program in schools
• Cutting –or in the worst case scenario eliminating— support for summer and spring programs to prevent youth violence
• Cutting the number of youth helped by the 9th Grade Counts and College and Career Connections programs
• Closing three SUN after-school programs.
More than 60 youth met April 7 to discuss the City of Portland’s 2012-2013 budget. Held at the EcoTrust building on N.W. 9th street, the meeting was the fifth annual budget session hosted by Multnomah Youth Commission with support from Portland’s Youth Planning Program. The event brings together Portland youth aged 14 – 21 to learn how the city’s budget works and to voice their priorities.
“Youth make up a huge percentage of the city’s population, I want to say a quarter,” said Lisa Frank, an alumni of the Youth Commission, now a student at Georgetown University.
“We don’t often get a chance to share our voices. So having a chance to have input on where the city is going for the future is very important. Before the Youth Commission, this huge proportion of the city never got to have a say on these issues.”
Most of the youth who attended live on the East side of the city. Asked to report which issues were problems in their neighborhoods:
Youth commissioners and city staff explained the budgeting process and listed the cuts under consideration. Cuts on the table included: sidewalk construction, street paving , a fire station, a job development program, an emergency shelter, Buckman pool, pedestrian and bike safety measures. After learning about how budget resources are allocated the group voted for their top priority programs.
Youth in attendance rated the programs most important to them as:
1. A tie between SUN Schools and the Multnomah Youth Commission
2. Housing access
3. Youth Planning Program
4. Summer Youth Connects and 9th Grade Counts
5. Office of Youth Violence Prevention
“All the information gathered today will be presented to City Council, the County and the Multnomah Youth Commission,” said Ana Meza, a youth commissioner who helped organize the event.
At the same time, the Children’s Levy, which funds programs for at-risk children and youth, projects its revenues will drop for the third straight year. In 2010-11 the Levy served 17,000 children and took in revenues of $13 million. In 2011-12, Children’s Levy served 13,000 children on revenues of $12 million. In 2012-13 the fund projects serving 10,000 children on a budget of $10 million.
“The problem is that we’re bringing in less revenue because of the reduction in the housing market and lower property values,” said Mary Gay Broderick, communications and outreach director for the Children’s Levy. “We need to reduce our investments by $3.7 million.”
Broderick said the allocations committee met April 9 and made $1.3 million in cuts to after-school programs, mentoring programs and leverage funding. Next Monday, April 16, the committee will cut a further $2.4 million, this time from early childhood programs, foster care programs and child abuse prevention and intervention.
“It was a sad day Monday and next Monday will be another sad day,” she said. “It’s tough out there.”
Funding for six programs was discontinued, including: a Big Brothers Big Sisters school mentoring program; the Tears of Joy puppet theater’s after-school program; a library Raising a Reader program; and the Community Cycling Center program.
Broderick said Commissioner Saltzman, who runs the Children’s Levy, has encouraged youth advocates to remain optimistic.
“Hopefully we can get some of those cuts reinstated in the future,” she said.
PHOTOS: Faces from the Youth Planning Program budget summit.