Portland Gets an “F ” on Fiscal Honesty

Portland has been trying to pull fast one. 

The city claims it “operates on a tough set of financial controls” to ensure it balances its annual budget. 

It doesn’t.

According to a report recently released by a nonprofit, Truth in Accounting (TIA), in order to “balance the budget” Portland has been failing to include its true costs, pushing costs onto future taxpayers. 

“Despite receiving support from COVID relief grants and other federal programs, Portland remained in dire fiscal shape during the onset of the pandemic ,” the Report said.

TIA examined the nation’s 75 most populous cities. At the end of FY 2020, 61 of them did not have enough money to pay all their bills. 

Grades of A to F were assigned to the 61 cities to give greater context to each city’s Taxpayer Burden or Taxpayer Surplus.  TIA divides the amount of money needed to pay bills by the number of city taxpayers to come up with the Taxpayer Burden. 

The “D” and “F” grades apply to governments that have not balanced their budgets and have significant Taxpayer Burdens. No cities received A’s, 14 received B’s, 26 received C’s, 29 received D’s.

Six cities received Fs for failing grades. One of those was Portland.

“…government officials are responsible for reporting their actions and the results in ways that are truthful and comprehensible to the electorate,” the TIA Report says. “Providing accurate and timely information to citizens and the media is an essential part of government responsibility and accountability.”

One of the ways Portland makes its budgets look balanced is by shortchanging public pension and Other Postemployment Benefits (OPEB) that it provides to retired employees, according to the Report. These benefits principally involve health care benefits, but also may include life insurance, disability, legal and other services.

In other words, Portland has been using some of the money that’s been owed to cover pension and OPEB costs to keep taxes low instead and to pay for politically popular programs without real accountability.

Portland was ranked one of the poorest performing cities at the end of FY20 in terms of its taxpayer burden, the report says.   Because the city didn’t have enough money to pay its bills, it had a $5.6 billion financial hole.  To erase this shortfall, each Portland taxpayer would have had to send $24,900 to the city.  That was up substantially from $18,800 at the end of FY15.

“Portland’s overall financial condition (from FY19) worsened by $1.2 billion mostly because the city’s Fire and Police Disability and Retirement Plan had no assets and it is assumed that the plan will have to borrow money to pay benefits.,” the report says. “Overall, the city had set aside only 36 cents for every dollar of promised pension benefits and eight cents for every dollar of promised retiree health care benefits. 

“Portland has been in poor fiscal shape for years.,” the TIA report said. 

Time to stand up and fix things.

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