PORTLAND, Maine — Portland's City Council met on Monday to discuss the city's budget, encompassing debate about a variety of issues and heated topics.
Dozens of people took to the podium, voicing their opinions and concerns.
The initial budget proposal included cuts to homeless services. It also was designed to phase out the Community Support Fund, which provides financial aid for asylum seekers.
A number of residents weren't happy with this proposal, saying it seemed like a slight toward new Mainers and the poor.
"As a new immigrant in the United States, shelter has been so helpful to me, to my friends, to people I know. A lot of them come here to seek refuge -- to seek help. But having this fund cut, having it out of the program -- it means that they're not welcome anymore," a speaker shared their experience about the importance of the CSF.
Last week, amendments were passed to restore funding for overflow shelter space and to add to the CSF. The Portland Press Herald reports $50,000 was added for CSF and $45,000 was added for overflow shelters.
People who showed up Monday night continued to push for these promises.
"We will not let you balance the budget at the expense of poor folks, immigrants, low wage workers, and school children," one resident declared. "This city has the resources to include care for all of us within the budget. Our responsibility is to find the resources -- not to cut city services."
Another budget agenda item from Monday night -- the debate regarding whether Fire Engine 1 on Munjoy Hill should be taken out of service. Residents spoke out about their concerns, many who live in the area saying it would put their safety at risk.
"Eliminating 20 percent of Portland's fast response fire fighting capacity is to subject Munjoy Hill and our entire city to one of the most dangerous and life-threatening situations imaginable," one speaker said.
The Portland Press Herald released the final decisions from Monday night's discussion.
The budget will:
- reinstate the shelter overflow and CSF
- create a new position associated with the pesticides ordinance
- find additional funding for Cultivating Community
- increase hourly parking fees from $1.50 to $1.75 (bringing in $500,000 in revenue and dropping the tax increase by 3.7 percent)
The City Council voted 6-3 not to add six additional firefighters to the city at a cost of $400,000.