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October 24th, 2012 12:01 am TROY BRYNELSON | News Stories

The Portland Index: In Bondage

How much debt has Portland passed on to residents via bonds?

portlandindex_3851SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau; cities’ finance reports.Note: All figures for 2011 except Portland (2012) and seattle (2010).

Like most major cities, Portland puts the cost of many of its public essentials—sewers, parks and public safety—on the credit card. The bonds Portland has sold also paid for urban renewal projects, the streetcar and the remodel of PGE Park—now Jeld-Wen Field. In all, the city has piled up $3.2 billion in bonded debt—or about $5,457 per person—putting us midrange on the West Coast and among other comparable cities. Nearly half the debt comes from the “Big Pipe” combined sewer overflow project; that borrowing will climb by $700 million by 2017. The debt figure doesn’t include the $2.7 billion unfunded liability for the city’s pay-as-you-go Fire and Police Disability and Retirement system. That giant IOU adds about $4,500 to our per-capita debt.

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