The Office of Youth Violence Prevention is facing a murky future in Portland.
Director Rob Ingram says his office's relatively small budget of $600,000 was slashed in half during preliminary budget talks within city government. Most of that money has since been restored, but the office's long-term future is uncertain.
Cutting Ingram's budget by nearly $300,000 would have devastated the office's mission and goals, causing a massive withdrawal of funds to most of the seven outreach organizations it helps to fund. Through diplomacy and hard work, Ingram was able to regain the funding he needs in the next year – in "one-time" funding that will have to be renegotiated next year. The office has been allocated $630,000 – which will be voted on June 4 by the City Council. Austin Raglione, Potter's chief of staff, says the mayor secured $97,000 in "ongoing" funding – meaning that the other $500,000 or so is considered "one-time" only money, subject to the whims of future City Councils.
Ingram says he's pleased with the agreed-upon amount of money, but says the uncertainty of the funding affects long-term planning. While his position of executive director is permanent, his policy manager isn't.
The budget wrangling over the office might also be the victim of politics. The office was created in July of 2006 by Mayor Potter. It's unclear if Commissioner Sam Adams, Portland's presumptive mayor, or the future council, will put the same kind of support to the office as its creator. Calls to Adams' office for comment weren't returned for press time.
Raglione, says the initial drawdown in funds came from budget negotiations from Adams and Commissioner Randy Leonard, who were looking for ways to pay off a legal settlement with the Fire Bureau. Potter's status as a "lame duck" mayor had little to do with the funding. Raglione says it has more to do with the need to approve a budget, which needs three affirmative votes to pass.
"There's always changes made by the council," she said. "Getting five members to agree on budget priorities is harder than it should be."
Uncertain funding for the office could also mean an uncertain future for the grants it gives to community outreach organizations. If there are fewer grant dollars to award, some community outreach organizations funded by the Office of Youth Violence Prevention could take a real hit.
"For an organization whose yearly operating budget is $200,000, a loss of even $4,000 is a huge hit," he said. "We're going to have to make some hard decisions."
Another Potter project that didn't meet expectations was the Human Relations Commissions. Three positions were asked to be funded; the commission has agreed upon two.