A recent report from the city auditor of Portland, Oregon has recommended a clarification of the standards that determine how the city's utility budgets are spent, noting that customers' water and sewer payments were used to fund unrelated projects on several occasions, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
The report found Portland's spending to be consistent with six other cities of a similar size. However, a portion of customers' utility payments has not been used for purposes that directly benefit them, which is a violation of budgeting rules. Although using department money to fund projects outside of the department's core mission is not a transgression in itself, using ratepayer money to do so is not allowed.
"Sewer money being spent for parks and planning purposes had been under $200,000 five years ago," said Drummond Kahn, director of audit services, as reported by the news source. "Today, it's 10 times that much, at $2.5 million."
According to the Portland Tribune, $20 million of the city's water and sewer services funds have been put towards "green street" facilities along bike boulevards, $500,000 went to community college scholarships, and another $1.5 million was used to construct a building for the Portland Rose Festival Foundation.