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Portland City Council Votes To Cut More Than 60 Positions As Revenues Drop Amid Pandemic

Portland city councilors voted Monday night to cut more than 60 city positions in its budget, as part of an effort to address a steep drop-off in revenue because of the pandemic.Like many other cities, Portland is estimating sharp declines in tax revenue, plus millions in lost dollars from cruise ships, parking meters and city events.

City Manager Jon Jennings told councilors that the cuts were necessary to avoid increasing property tax rates. Jennings also couldn't rule out further changes if the pandemic worsens, "in case the revenue projections do not hold up, or we see a second wave, or any number of other issues."

Before the vote, Portland Mayor Kate Snyder said it was important to consider the unpredictability of the virus and its economic effects on families and businesses as councilors debated the budget.

"It's not knowing how peoples' personal bank accounts will fare through these difficult next many months potentially," she said. "Not knowing how businesses will survive in this time, while the weather gets colder and the challenges are so great."

After deliberating for hours, councilors voted to restore a few select programs and positions, but left most of the cuts in place.

Many of the largest cuts were to the city's Parks and Recreation Department, which has been unable to offer many programs, such as ice skating or swimming lessons for several months.

While councilors agreed to the budget cuts, they did add funding for a few positions, as well as stipends for members of the city's racial equity committee.

Last month, the Maine Municipal Association forecast that cities and towns could lose nearly $150 million statewide this year.

On Monday, local and state leaders called on federal legislators to include state and municipal funding as part of any potential stimulus package.