Beginning July 1, it’s going to cost drivers a little bit more to park their vehicles at metered spaces in downtown Portland.

City Councilors on Monday made a last-minute decision to increase parking fees by 25 cents an hour, from $1.50 to $1.75. The higher fees will be charged at old-fashioned coin meters and the more modern kiosks.

The proposal was brought forward around 11:30 p.m. Monday by City Councilors Belinda Ray and Kimberly Cook, who introduced the proposal at the end of the lengthy meeting as a way to reduce the property tax increase in next year’s budget.

The late introduction was a tactical move. Ray initially had hoped additional revenue would convince councilors to support adding $90,000 to the budget for a senior planner. When that failed, she wanted to ensure that additional revenue from parking fees would result in a lower property tax rate and not be use for other purposes that were debated earlier in the meeting.

“We felt that if we brought it forward at the beginning of the meeting, it might feel as though there was extra money to spend and we were very concerned,” Ray said Monday night, adding that she was uncomfortable with a 4 percent tax increase. “Part of the reason we wanted to bring this forward is to reduce our mill rate.”

The amendment passed 5-4, with Mayor Ethan Strimling and Councilors Nicholas Mavodones, Spencer Thibodeau and Pious Ali opposed. Mavodones said he was disappointed with the late introduction of the proposal, and Thibodeau said he shared staff’s concern that parking rates may need to be increased in future budgets when the additional revenue might be needed to sustain programs or services.


The increased parking fees will bring in an estimated $500,000 in additional revenue next year. That revenue will reduce the property tax increase from the combined city and school budget from 4 percent to 3.7 percent, saving $15 on the annual tax bill of a property assessed at $240,000.

Portland’s parking meters and kiosks are expected to generate $3.8 million in revenue during the current year.

The amendment was one of several changes made Monday night to both the city and school budgets, including restoring funds for financial assistance to asylum seekers who are not eligible for state General Assistance and maintaining a second overflow space for the Oxford Street Shelter, which serves homeless adults.

The council also supported a proposal to decommission Engine 1 – one of two fire engines on Munjoy Hill – and redeploy the 12 firefighters who staff the truck to cover open shifts, reduce overtime and provide additional administrative support for EMS crews. The station will remain open with an ambulance and a fire truck.

Councilors voted against a proposal by Strimling to add nine firefighters at a cost of $400,000. He hoped the extra staff would allow Engine 1 to remain in service. But the fire chief said that the additional staffing would not necessarily save the engine.

Shortly after midnight, councilors voted 8-1 to approve a $206.3 million municipal budget and a $117.4 million school budget. Cook opposed the budget because the tax increase was too large.


The year-over-year increase of the municipal budget was 4.6 percent, or $9 million, while the school’s increase was 5.8 percent $6.8 million.

That’s a projected property tax increase of 3.7 percent, raising the mill rate from $22.48 to $23.31 and adding about $199 to the tax bill of a home valued at $240,000.

The council’s budget vote came after a protest and two-hour public hearing Monday during which residents urged the council to pass a “moral and just” budget.

Activists organized their rally to restore social service funding. But once the council’s Finance Committee voted to restore the funding, the movement grew to address other areas of the budget, including a proposal to decommission Engine 1.

“I’m very pleased to support this budget,” Strimling said, citing funds for expanded pre-kindergarten and social services. “I’m certainly disappointed about the firefighter piece. … All and all, I feel this is a strong budget that does reflect the values of the people of the city of Portland.”

Some of the speakers and rally-goers focused their criticism on City Manager Jon Jennings for his proposed budget. One person at the rally held a sign with Jennings’ face, with fangs, with the words “Not today Satan” written on it.


Jennings previously said he did not include council priorities in his proposal because the council did not finish its goal-setting or provide firm budget direction. He proposed a two-year phase out of the Portland Community Support Fund, which helps asylum seekers, and elimination of a second overflow for the adult homeless shelter as a way force a council conversation about its priorities.

While councilors rejected those cuts Monday night, they also defended Jennings and lamented the tenor – and the misinformation – surrounding the budget debate. For example, some councilors said they heard from constituents that the entire Munjoy Hill station was closing, when it wasn’t.

City Councilor Justin Costa said that councilors mostly agree on issues and priorities, describing the reaction to a “modest proposal” about the Community Support Fund as being “over the top.” He said some people reached out to express fear they would lose services when that was not the case.

“I think as a community we need to find a way of disagreeing and we need to find a way of communicating in a way that’s less destructive and more able to bring people together,” Costa said. “What bothers me is when I get emails from people that are concerned about themselves, their friends or their neighbors that are based on misinformation.”

City Council Jill Duson offered veiled criticism of the nonprofit social service agency Preble Street, which helped organize the rally and opposition to Jennings’ budget. Duson didn’t call out the nonprofit by name, but she criticized the lead organizations behind the rally for characterizing the manager’s budget as amoral, while not discussing its own reduction in services.

Duson seemed to be referring to Preble Street’s decision to reduce hours at its day shelter last summer and its ongoing discussions about possibly closing the Resource Center at 5 Portland St. when – and if – the city builds a new, full-service shelter.

“I think we’re all making difficult decisions within tight budgets,” Duson said. “I respect that organization has to make difficult decisions within its own budget. I certainly wouldn’t got out and claim their decision around cuts in services are less than moral or are motivated by some lack of appreciation for the most needy residents of our city.”

Parking rates aren’t the only fees going up as a result of the budget. The cost of city-issued trash bags was increased by 15 cents for each 15-gallon bag, which currently cost $1.35 apiece, and 30 cents for each 30-gallon bag, which currently cost $2.70 apiece. Those changes are driven by an increase in tipping fees for trash and a new recycling fee charged by ecomaine.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: