The city of Portland has experienced massive increases in spending to accommodate migrants seeking asylum and residents experiencing homelessness, but those cost increases have been largely offset by increases in revenue from property taxes and other fees, according to the city’s financial records.
Taxpayers from the rest of the state have also chipped in thanks to increases in aid from the state government.
According to the 2022 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report for Portland, the city had a surplus of $483,847 for the 2021-22 fiscal year, resulting from property taxes, increased revenue from licenses and permits, and “higher than anticipated” parking fees.
For the 2023 fiscal year, Portland’s mill rate was .01361, meaning that Portland residents had to pay $13.61 for every $1,000 of their property’s value.
The report, which was published in March, stated that the increase in revenue – resulting from these sources specifically – “more than offset significant increases in expenditures, particularly for social services programs.”
Late last month, city officials announced the launch of a new social service program developed in partnership with the Quality Housing Coalition (QHC).
The program is intended to house Portland’s “asylum seekers” in the homes of landlords and homeowners with extra space. Landlords participating in the program are promised to receive taxpayer-funded rent payments, year-long housing support, and a “financial guarantee” from the QHC.
Portland’s recent budgetary debates revealed the City Council’s willingness to raise residents’ property tax rates substantially in order to fund the Council’s increasingly expensive programs and initiatives.
Earlier this month, the Portland City Council approved a budget estimated to cost 5.9 percent more than the one passed for the previous fiscal year.
Portland’s City Manager Danielle West told WMTW back in May that despite operating within their financial “reality,” they “worked to address some of the Council’s stated priorities, including additional funding for our Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work, more than doubling our funding for homeless shelter operations (an over 100% increase from $5.25 million in FY23 to in excess of $10.6 million for FY24), significantly increasing investment in other asylum seeker transitional housing options, all while attempting to maintain other levels of core services and not bring forward a tax rate increase above inflation.”
Earlier this summer, West stated publicly that unless the city received money from the state to help cover the costs associated with the influx of “asylum seekers,” among other things, Portland taxpayers would likely be left footing the bill.
It was estimated that, absent receiving money from the state, the new budget would require a tax increase of approximately 6 percent.
The state has since approved sending the city $7.45 million, which is expected to help decrease the estimated tax increase for Portland residents.
It is unclear if this funding will impact the additional 5.7 percent tax rate hike that was deemed necessary to fund the $144 million school budget approved by Portland residents in June.
The City has not yet announced a final property tax rate for the coming fiscal year.
West did not respond to a request for comment from the Maine Wire.
Read the City of Portland’s 2022 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report Here