Portland leaders delayed a vote on the city’s proposed budget Monday night, in order to wait and see if the state will give them more money to pay for the city’s asylum seeker crisis, according to reporting by WGME.
Proposed bills being considered in the State Legislature could help cover the over $4 million Portland says it needs to cover next year’s budget, including one bill that would increase state reimbursement for municipal general assistance from 70 to 90 percent.
However, if that legislation fails, city leaders say Portland residents could see their taxes rise by more than 10 percent next year.
Portland city officials are currently proposing a 6 percent tax increase to fund general assistance for asylum seekers and address the city’s homelessness crisis.
However, the city may need to raise even more revenue if the need for these services continues to increase into next year.
“There’s always a possibility that you know, cuts or reductions would be necessary,” Portland City Manager Danielle West said. “We’re going to try our best to stay away from that.”
In a letter sent to Governor Janet Mills, the city is asking for a state-level capacity to coordinate services for asylum seekers, additional shelters throughout Maine to house everyone needing shelter, and an increase in General Assistance reimbursement.”
The letter was sent on Friday, June 2 to Gov. Mills from Portland Mayor Kate Snyder and newly-appointed City Manager Danielle West, who say that they have both been making weekly trips to Augusta to plead with Mills and lawmakers for more state budgetary assistance.
Whether Maine taxpayers will be forced to pick up the tab for Portland’s asylum seeker policies will likely be determined within the next two weeks, as the 131st Legislature is on track to adjourn before the final week of June.
Portland’s City Council will vote on the proposed budget on June 26, shortly after the legislative session ends—by which time city officials will know whether state reimbursement for general assistance will increase or not.