Portland’s metropolis auditor on Thursday stated that the Portland Bureau of Transportation didn’t adequately monitor and account for fuel tax cash earmarked for avenue restore and security tasks.
Portland voters in 2016 authorised a brief 10-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline purchased inside metropolis limits, and so they renewed the tax in 2020.
The Transportation Bureau dubbed the hassle the “Fixing Our Streets” program and dedicated to utilizing 56% of the income from the fuel tax for highway repairs and the remaining 44% for pedestrian and bicycle security enhancements, notably close to colleges.
The auditor present in 2019, and once more Thursday, that town hadn’t intently tracked how a lot cash was spent on highway repairs and the way a lot was spent on pedestrian and bicycle enhancements, notably when tasks included each.
“Initiatives that had spending for each security and restore enhancements weren’t accounted for individually,” Auditor Mary Hull Caballero’s workplace stated in a information launch, “making it not possible for town to guarantee the general public it saved its promise to voters.”
Transportation Bureau spokesperson Hannah Schafer that the 56-44 break up was a part of the primary iteration of the Fixing our Streets funding measure and was not included when voters authorised a second model of the challenge in 2020.
She stated the newest report of the primary iteration confirmed that town had spent almost 60% of the price range on upkeep and 40% on security. The gross income from the fuel tax from 2017 to 2020 was about $74.7 million.
“Whereas the 56-44 break up was a strong compromise in idea, the fact is challenge budgets fluctuate as the costs for particular person parts (metal, asphalt, timber, and many others.) change,” Schafer wrote to The Oregonian/OregonLive in an e-mail.
Schafer additionally stated that most of the tasks from the primary model have been expanded with funding from extra sources. She stated that included “easy” paving tasks being developed into extra complete tasks with sidewalks, crossings and guarded bikeways.
“All this makes monitoring the break up tough if not not possible as many tasks include each security and upkeep elements,” she stated.
Schafer stated that when town referred a renewal of this system to voters in 2020, it modified the method, outlining for voters a slate of particular tasks as an alternative of a normal proportion break up between restore and security tasks.
These tasks, outlined in a report by the Transportation Bureau, embody $25 million for paving busy roads and neighborhoods streets, $5 million for brand new visitors alerts and pedestrian crossing beacons, $6 million to enhance protected strolling routes close to colleges and $1.5 million in neighborhood security enhancements.
However the metropolis auditor’s workplace stated that in a dashboard that the Transportation Bureau created to trace challenge spending thus far, it had not damaged down paving and security parts for particular person tasks.
“Consequently, the Bureau will seemingly encounter the identical issues it had validating the dedication to voters from the primary iteration of Fixing our Streets,” the report stated.
The auditor is unlikely to comply with up once more. The workplace sometimes stops issuing progress stories after the second 12 months following an audit.
Steve Novick, the previous Portland metropolis commissioner who crafted the fuel tax proposal whereas overseeing the Transportation Bureau, stated officers all the time knew that it will be difficult to differentiate between repairs and security — however the truth that voters authorised a renewal of the tax spoke to its success thus far.
He added that for some tasks, Transportation Bureau officers will not be comfy making stark distinctions in spending for tasks that embody security and restore parts.
“However they’re sustaining the dedication to do a whole lot of repairs and a whole lot of security tasks, and 75% of the voters authorised of what they’ve been doing,” he stated in an e-mail to The Oregonian/OregonLive.
The fuel tax renewal handed with 77% voting “sure” in Could 2020.
—Jayati Ramakrishnan; 503-221-4320; firstname.lastname@example.org; @JRamakrishnanOR