A look at General Fund expenditures

Last week, I looked at how Oakland’s total budget and General Fund is spread out through various city departments. Here’s a different way of looking at where our money goes.

As you probably remember, the General Fund is the portion of the budget where the City has discretionary power over funding. You can view the specific distribution of the General Fund budget by department here, but it basically breaks down like this:


Now, the vast majority of the General Fund goes to personnel costs, which includes salaries, benefits, and retirement. A small portion goes to operations and maintenance, and the rest is mostly transfers and payments to other funds, debt service and so on. Below are the totals for the FY08-09 General Fund expenditures by type. These numbers (and all those that follow) were taken from the City’s five year financial forecast (PDF) released in December, and reflect the budget cuts made by the Council last November.



So, what about all those fund transfers and “other”? Well, basically, Oakland made a lot of poor decisions over a lot of years, which stuck us in a situation where many of our funds have negative balances. In 2005, we adopted a 10-year repayment plan to address the deficits, but of course, we didn’t actually follow it, so instead of getting better, the problem has just been getting worse.

The Facilities Fund is supposed to pay for repairs and maintenance of property owned by the City. About half of this fund’s costs are for staff. The negative balance in that one is projected at $32.4 million over ten years, and the General Fund had to cough up $11 million this year to cover the gap there. The Equipment Fund pays for maintaining things like the City’s cars, trucks, and construction equipment, and began the year with a projected $22.4 million negative balance over ten years, and we paid $8.4 million to that from the General Fund this year. A little less than a third of this fund’s costs are for staffing.

Other funds on repayment schedules for their negative balances include the Kaiser Convention Center Fund, the Telecommunication Fund, and the Contract Compliance Fund. A little bit of good news here is that we have actually been making our scheduled payments to these three funds, and the Telecommunications Fund will be repaid (if we keep to the schedule) by the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year. Then there’s the Self-Insurance Liability Fund, which we use to cover claims against the City. That got $14.98 million from the General Fund this year. And the Comprehensive Clean-Up Fund (parking enforcement) gets $600,000 too.

Another chunk of money goes to Kids First, the voter-mandated set-aside for after-school programs. We have to make lease payments on a bunch of property (Museum, Convention Center, City Administration building). We pay an annual contribution to the Wildfire Prevention Assessment District. Then there’s our debt service on the Coliseum, and a bunch of other small subsidies to various feel-good activities. It all comes out to a little over $90 million, or nearly 20% of the General Fund. And it looks like this:


The “Non-Departmental Subsidies” break out like this:


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7 thoughts on “A look at General Fund expenditures

  1. livegreen

    Looks like the biggest areas to control costs are:

    –Payroll, Benefits and Retirement (IDLF said Oakland payments include 1/2 of employee contributions, where other cities don’t pay any of the employee contributions);
    –Potential re-negotiation of debt with lenders (look at the results the threat of bankruptcy is getting GM and Chrysler with both it’s lenders and employees);
    –Cutting some equipment and related services.

    These are hard choices, but choices must be made, in the public sector like in the private sector.

    I might add that any government RFP’s should get more competitive bids right now. An additional move would be for City contractors to voluntarily take off 10-20% of their contract costs or put them up for rebid (if that’s possible outside of bankruptcy). And as an incentive include these contributions as a preference in future bids.

  2. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    I love that we subsidize the zoo & Fairyland to the tune of $1.3 million, but we can’t see a lot left free of parking for public art or some other interesting something that would make the Uptown even more of a destination area.

    But yeah, picking on one thing is probably not the answer and I’m sure that Fairyland and the zoo are worthy of our monies. Do poverty stricken kids and family get to enjoy these two gems at a discount, or at all? (not accusing, just asking)

    Seriously though, bennies are retirement costs are simply outrageous, imho. Reduce those by half like the rest of corporate America has had to do.

  3. Chris Kidd

    Fairlyland and Zoo are small potatos. Kids Fist is more than 10x the two of them combined.
    Also, Fairlyland is terribly underfunded every year. Without the support of the Lake Merrit Breakfast Club, they’d go belly up pretty darn fast. One of the reasons Fairyland needs so much support is that they keep their admission prices super super low in order to make it more affordable for all Oakland residents.

  4. Ralph

    exactly why is the employer paying the employee contribution. in my simple world the employee pays the employee contribution.

    reducing the ‘er contribution to the retirement is always a risky move – not exactly a moral booster. good employers are avoiding this option. but if the overall benefits are out of line including any adjustment for speciall circumstances, then we need to revisit.

    maybe fairyland should raise their rates. there are no free lunches in this world. at some point people need to pay a fair cost for value received. if you can’t pay full fare maybe you can apply for an admission scholarship and volunteer hours

  5. das88

    Sure there can be improvements, but I am pretty happy with the way Fairyland and Zoo seem to operate. I have many happy memories of taking my niece to Fairyland, and I still enjoy going to the zoo. In addition, to providing fairly inexpensive family entertainment they also both employ a fair number of teenagers and twenty-somethings.

    Oakland also used to support the ice rink, but now it provides more service to the community and revenue. Perhaps, there are some lessons that the other public entertainment venues can learn that can make them even better.

  6. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    I was being facetious about Fairyland and the Zoo. My perception is that only the wealthy are using them, but maybe that’s not true. I would hate to see them go away, not that I’ve used either. No kids. Working 6 days a week isn’t conducive to spending a free day at the zoo seeing the animals. I see plenty of animals here in the store.

    The bennies and retirement equate to much bigger numbers. Even if they took a significant cut – like the rest of most America – then we might have a chance. Are people really going to quit over it? Not in this economy, I’d think. There work productivity might go down, but for some there’s no further down to go (again, imho).

    There are some really, really great emps within the City, but I feel like many of them are carrying the dead weight of others.

  7. len raphael

    J, the crux is that productivity of many city employees is low. is it lower than that of other cities, yes if we believe anecdotal info from employees we’ve all talked to over the years. But some part of that is just complaining and some part is that muni govt productivity in larger cities is probably very low every where.

    Laying off employees based on seniority without increasing the productivity is going t o be devasting to quality of life here.

    -len