Budget decision coming on Tuesday

After like two months of discussion, the Oakland City Council will finally pass a budget on Tuesday. Last week, Councilmembers Brunner, De La Fuente, Kernighan, and Quan submitted a revised version of their proposed changes to the Mayor’s budget (PDF), which you can read in its entirety here (PDF). Here are the highlights, and I’ve noted the places where this proposal differs from what was discussed on the 16th:

  • Library: Do not accept proposed branch pairing. Instead, keep all libraries open 5 days per week, but reduce book budget by 10%.
    • Previously, the General Fund contribution to the Second Start Adult Literacy program was proposed for elimination. That idea proved wildly unpopular at the last budget meeting (on the 16th), and this cut is no longer part of the proposal.
  • Public Works: Do not cut (as proposed by Mayor) 4 tree maintenance staff and 3 gardener crews. In exchange, 100 vehicles will be removed from the fleet, two vacant positions will be eliminated (vehicle maintenance positions), and we will not make $1.45 million in expected new vehicle purchases.
  • Police: Do not cut the rangers (who patrol the parks) as proposed. 10% reduction in personnel budget, eliminate take-home vehicles (except for certain positions), and ground helicopter.

    • The big change from the last proposal we saw is, of course, the 10% personnel budget reduction ($13.35 million). You would have to have been living in a cave for the past two weeks to have missed the heated back and forth between City officials and the OPOA over the negotiations, which are not going well. This proposal basically says that whether or not the police agree to changes in their contract, they will take the same 10% cut as all other City employees. If a contract agreement is not reached, the cost reduction may be imposed through furloughs.
  • Do not accept debt refinancing or suspended payments to internal service funds as proposed in Mayor’s budget.
  • Parking: Do not raise parking fine for expired meter beyond $55 ($10 increase had been proposed. Extend meter hours to 8 PM. Increase rates in off-street parking lots so they’re the same as the meters. Raise meter fee $0.50, to $2/hour.
    • Two weeks ago, the proposal was to raise the meter fee only $0.25, but also to begin a pilot program that would charge $3/hour during peak hours (10-2) downtown. The peak hour pricing pilot program was pretty unpopular at the meeting on the 16th, and that proposal is now gone.
  • Parking: Start charging parking tax on parking at the Coliseum (raises $1.5 million, will start September 1st) and on diesel truck parking.
  • Marketing: Increase Cultural Funding Program Coordinator position from 0.5 FTE to 1.0 FTE. Reduce arts grants by $55k to offset cost.
    • This is new.
  • Fire Department: save $6.1 million through employee concessions.
    • This was $6.4 million in the proposal two weeks ago.
  • Mayor: 20% reduction from exempt positions budget, plus elimination of Pay-Go.
  • City Attorney: 10% reduction of budget
  • City Auditor: will have to share a receptionist with the Public Ethics Commission
  • City Council: 20% budget reduction, including elimination of Pay-Go (for current year only).
  • Voluntary 10% pay cut for elected officials.
    • This is an increase from the 5% proposed last time around.
  • Reduce supplies across all agencies by 20%, saving $1.3 million.
  • Renegotiate outstanding contracts for 5-10% reduction, saving $0.5 million.
  • Reduce subsidies to Zoo, Chabot Space & Science Center, Cypress Mandela Training Center, Oakland Asian Cultural Center, etc. by 10%. Reduce subsidy to Schools of the Arts by 50%.
  • Raise $4.5 million with 10% surcharge on tickets at the Coliseum and Arena.
    • This was estimated at $9 million in the previous proposal, but since so many tickets have already been sold, it’s clear we wouldn’t be able to bring in that much this year. $9 million is expected for next year.
  • Save $2.1 million through Early Retirement Incentive program.

And again, that’s just a summary of the proposal. You can view the entire thing, along with the amount of money each step would cost or save this year and next year here (PDF).

Now on top of that, some other Councilmembers have submitted proposals of their own. District 7 Councilmember and Public Safety Committee Chair Larry Reid is asking that the police helicopter be restored to the budget (PDF), as well as take-home vehicles for senior-level and critical emergency staff. In exchange, he would like to reduce the police overtime budget by an equivalent cost ($378,000 for the helicopter, $80,000 for the take-home vehicles).

Reid is also proposing (PDF) that we reclassify the position of parking control technician to parking control officers. Parking Control Officers make like $1 more per hour than Parking Control Technicians (hourly rates are listed in the salary schedule (PDF)), but they also have more power. The idea is that if we did this, we would be able to use a combination of parking control officers and a small number of police officers for traffic enforcement at special events, which would cut the traffic enforcement cost for a typical event just about in half.

I don’t know how in tune everybody is with this special event issue – I’ve been meaning to write about it forever and just haven’t found the time. Basically, the City used to budget some money to cover the costs of having police provide security/traffic control for special events, parades, and festivals. Then that money got cut back in November, and now the festivals have to shoulder the full cost. But the festivals can’t afford it. This resulted in events like Cinco de Mayo getting cancelled. It’s a real problem. So this would be a way of reducing some of those costs.

District 3 Councilmember Nancy Nadel also submitted a list (PDF) of suggestions (PDF). Unlike the other proposals listed above, her memos do not include any estimates of the cost savings that would be achieved if they were adopted. A number of her suggestions are also included in the more detailed proposal outlined above. Additionally, she asks that we consider:

  • Eliminate city paid parking spaces for employees
  • Switch from auto allowance to a mileage reimbursement policy
  • Suspend professional development allowances for one year
  • Suspend merit increases for one year
  • Raise rental rates at Parks and Recreation facilities so that they are completely cost covering.
  • Reduce Zoo subsidy by 25%
  • Reduce Chabot Space and Science Center subsidy by 40%

She further requests that the City explore whether we could save money on police vehicles by assigning officers two to each car.

State law requires us to pass a budget by July 1st, so a decision will be made on Tuesday. The meeting starts at 5 PM, and the budget is basically the only thing on the agenda (PDF).

25 thoughts on “Budget decision coming on Tuesday

  1. Patrick

    It’s impressive how our Councilmembers are so willing to stand up to the Police. It’s especially impressive when you consider that they fall into little incapacitated heaps at the feet of the non-profits.

    You’ve got to admire Nadel’s ideas for reducing subsidies for Chabot and the Zoo, anticipating passage of Measure C. And I mean “admire” in the sense that we “admire” Hitler for his ability to bamboozle an entire population. Weren’t we stroked into voting for this Measure on the premise that the funding would provide “stimulus” and help IMPROVE Chabot and the Zoo? I’m quite sure that we were…let’s see here…ah, yes! The Measure itself reads “To provide ADDITIONAL (my caps) funding to the Oakland Zoo, the Oakland Museum of California, the Chabot Space and Science Center, etc. (including OCVB)”. Is it possible that the OCVB, which is in her district, and the Museum, which is two blocks from her district, has nothing to do with their funding being untouched in her proposal?

  2. dave o

    Anybody else out there wondering why there is a zoo at all? Small children realize that they are a cruel way to treat wild animals. They should go the way of the freak show, into the dust bin of history.

  3. len

    Council members stood firm on making pay go cut only temporary. Dellums was dead right about killing pay go permanently. Letting that form of patronage resume when the economy recovers is one of the cornerstones of bad government here.

    NN’s point about changing from flat monthly auto allowances to variable mileage reimbursements is good. Would increase admin time, but still worth doing.

    But overall, no wholesale elimination of entire depts or management layers. That will have to wait till next year.

    Is there an interaction between Measure Y and threatened opd furloughs?

    Are police and fire forbidden by law or contract from striking?

    -len raphael

  4. Karen Smulevitz

    The Zoo and Chabot Science Center provide valuable educational opportunities. I’m more familiar with the Zoo, because it is accessible by public transportation, albeit with a good hike uphill to the entrance. Excellent source of environmental knowledge, including the outdoor creekside classrooms. As far as I can tell, the animals are well treated, many times better than in the 1970′s, when the Oakland Zoo was rated one of the WORST in the country. Zoos have the potentional for research and breeding of endangered species, and since most of us will never have true wilderness experiences, zoos provide a venue wherein parents can introduce their children to the wonders of nature, touching that spot within us that preserves our humanity.
    Chabot! Marvelous, intelligent, mind-expanding awesomeness, totally inaccessible without a car.
    My gripe with these “Public” assets is that they are underutilized by the majority of Oakland families, being too costly to fit in working class budgets. The difficulty of getting there contributes to the appearance of elitism.
    The City should definitely cut its support of both, but not only East Oakland entities. The boards of all cultural institutions need to increase private funding to make up the loss of public money.

  5. Mark D

    I would also like to see cuts be more intelligent. Reid’s proposal about reclassifying parking control technicians seems smart. I also like the idea of less subsidized automobile use for city employees.

    In response to Karen s. Last time I was at Chabot, there was an AC Transit bus to get there. Was that line cut recently?

  6. Ralph

    I also like Reid’s proposal. I still think orgs need to carry more of the freight, but this should help.

  7. dave o

    There are plenty of opportunities here to experience animals in their natural contexts. There is no need to take them out of their natural homes, which are often far away, and confine them here is Oakland at great expense, where they undoubedly lead miserable and frustrating lives. There are plenty of local forests and beaches and tidepools and birds and insects and dogs and cats, to keep one in a state of awe.

  8. Karen Smulevitz

    dave o,
    I’m sure you are attuned and sensitive to the needs of animals, and we probably agree on loving them. We have great open spaces to explore in the Bay Area, if one has transportation to get to them. A few trails in Marin I’ve known would take three hours on public transit just to get to. Closer to home, there are species of snakes and small mammals in the Oakland hills to discover. The plant varieties are amazing. But unless we are academics or have paid careers in the field, we gain most of our knowledge vicariously. We might see an animal or its scat on a trail, but we only know of its life cycle because someone was able to devote time to study it. If we hadn’t learned what Sudden Oak Death was, we might look up and think we see just another dead tree.
    Again, I’m concerned about class divisions and its effects on the environment. We only work to save what we love, and we only love what we know. When city kids have no experience with nature, they cannot appreciate human impact on the earth, so it is our responsibility to support educational programs that give children new perspectives, and zoos can serve that purpose. Many species cannot possibly survive now in their natural habitats. Polar bears, gorillas, tigers. many others are disappearing. Yes, I would rather see them in the wild, but even a safari trek is a programmed adventure and not authentic.
    Your opposition to zoos provides a needed balance to the concept of collecting specimens, and without criticism and oversight zoos would never have developed a visionary world effort to save species. So thank you for that. I feel that way about pets; dogs and cats, OK, exotics no. I won’t even have birds or fish, because keeping them means confinement without joy.

  9. Robert

    I am confused by Reid’s proposal. I thought that special events were now being charged for security provided by the police department. In that case, all the savings he talks about accrue to the event sponsors, not to the city. So the city would be on the hook for the increased pay and benefits by reclassifying the technicians to officers, but he savings would go to the event organizers? How does this help the city?

  10. len

    as long as we’re getting down to smaller cost savings, i would guess that that besides the targeted savings in supplies purchases, internal auditing of the purchase of all routine outside services would be worth doing. of course that involves gives Ruby’s office at least their own admin person again, if not the money for two full time auditors.

  11. len

    Scrimping on resources for internal auditing is not so smart when the city is cutting pay, unpaid time off, reducing job security. that envoirnment where the employees feel their employee has broken its promises, could increase the frequency of supply shrinkage and worse.

  12. Ralph

    audit and i suspect others have both an executive assistant and a receptionist. that is just a waste of money. i seem to recall that years ago businesses and backwater cities such as baltimore went to a shared receptionist concept and depending on mgmt level you could use shared assts.

  13. Patrick

    I hear the word “receptionist” and I feel like I’m in an episode of ‘Bewitched’. Honestly, core means producing a tangible benefit to the citizenry. With computers, cellphones, scanners, e-filing and e-mail, there is no need for dictation, typing, filing, coffee-making etc. The only reason for a receptionist these days is to prevent the commoners from speaking to you. I think our electeds have that figured out pretty well. We should also consider laying off our gramophone repairpersons as well.

  14. len

    ok, you want to call the receptionist in a small office “admin assistant” and pay an extra $5/hour that’s ok. Is there something special about city jobs where an employee can’t be told to do something not in the original job description? (hmm, maybe there is?)

    internal auditors have to organize massive piles of documents. admin assist aka receptionist wb fine.

    overall point is that morale for city workers is probably sinking by the minute. that has all sorts of effects from higher absenteeism, lower efforts, supply shrinkage.

    the 10 pct effective pay cut instead of layoffs. that’s gonna cost us for years.

  15. Ralph

    len, do you really think that city employees would steal and there will be lower morale? Maybe survivor guilt, but lower morale?

    I think that there are some who are more inept than others but those people are either on council or serve in appointed positions. And no matter what work force you are referring to you will have a mix of A, B, and C employees. I’d like to think that at the end of the day we are dealing with people who will do their job regardless of the circumstances.

    I am not sure I buy your argument for a receptionist. Every IA department I have come in contact with in the past few years has done quite well without a receptionist. There is an exec asst and that is it. With significant amounts of work online what is the point of the receptionist.

  16. len

    ralph, i don’t know the staffing in the auditor’s office, but worth finding out to see if the cc and dellums are staffing it adequately. i don’t get the impression that it is the favorite dept of the mayor, the city attorney, or the cc.

    to find out about morale, ask a random group of city workers over the last several months what it was like waiting to find out at the very last minute about furloughs, and rumors about layoffs etc. for sure, with pay cuts and layoffs, and a council/mayor who delayed till the last second to face fiscal reality (no rainy day reserves etc), employee morale will sink.

    yes i think a higher but fairly small percentage of employees will be more inclined to supply shrinkage, timecard tinkering, expense report jiggering and similar activities? (the first hand account i heard about 10 years ago was about the ousd janitors who ran a janitorial supply biz on the side stocked w ousd stuff).

    10 percent pay reductions across the board instead of selectively, might be better for morale than selective pay reductions, but will result in the better younger employees leaving.

  17. V Smoothe Post author

    Despite the fact that the current auditor has had the same staff budgeted as the previous auditor, she has neglected in two and a half years to perform the charter-mandated duties of the office, such as review of all city large city expenditures. She has also not been delivering regular internal audits, as her predecessor did. Given what previous office holders have managed to accomplish with the same resources, I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that staffing has anything to do with the current auditor’s failure in this regard – the culprit is more likely her preference for headline grabbing press releases over doing her job.

  18. Naomi Schiff

    OUSD is separate from the City of Oakland. But careful supervision of employees and supplies is necessary to run a tight ship, and highly advisable at this point, yes.

    Between mayor’s office and city council, they have done a responsible and difficult job in a terrible situation. I think we can be grateful that the apparently final choices made were more or less reasonable, although of course I disagree with some of them.

    I am no expert on animal rights, but as an urban parent of two, I remember being happy to find local attractions for kids, including the zoo, and also my relief when the facilities there were radically improved over a period of a few years and with much independent fundraising. Jane Goodall blessed the current chimpanzee habitat: you should have seen it before! It is certainly more accessible than the high Sierra or even Point Reyes, places that many Oakland children have never seen, and gives them some idea of ecology and the world of living things. To save the planet, one has to get an idea of what is out there!

    I support keeping the auditor’s office strong, and staffing the key positions as fully as possible. The auditor is an important watchdog. As to the newly-consolidated receptionists–if they cut down on misdirected phone calls and send visitors to the correct offices, then they are saving us money on more expensive employees. A lot of business gets transacted in person or on the phone, still.

  19. Ralph

    len, thank you. there are times when i think that i am too cynical. i realize now that i barely scratch the surface.

  20. Robert

    Having been through several layoffs in the past, I wouldn’t be so much concerned about time card tinkering or pilfering, but the highly reduced efficiency caused by employees standing around bitching to each other both before and after the layoff, and looking for another job. It will probably take a year of more to get back to normal productivity for the remaining employees.

    If everyone gets a 10% cut, morale will probably be somewhat better, but there will still be complaining. In the short run, I suspect there will not be a rapid loss of the better employees, because there just aren’t a lot of jobs out there right now. In the long run it could be a problem. But the only solution to that is a performance based pay system, which I don’t think we will ever see.

  21. len

    Ralph, read my lips: i am not cynical. it’s just that some percentage of disgruntled workers who suddenly can’t make ends meet will find ways to justify getting “what’s theirs”.

    V, you might be the only person other me who has publicly said anything good about our former auditor’s official work. He had major problems but also some very good work.

    How about a post on current auditor’s performance. After that one on the city attorney office?

    just kidding.


  22. Robert

    Sorry len, believing the worst in people is cynicism, but I am pretty sure I have you both beat.

  23. Ralph

    len, some years ago i was at company that was going thru downsizing. coincidentally, a laptop turned up missing and an email went out to all to help find it. someone sent a reply to all essentially questioning what type of employee would take a laptop on their way out the door. this was met with a swift email from senior mgmt. did we work together in the past, are you that emailer, do you know that person?

    downsizing stinks and the weeks leading to the cuts can be tense but i think the survivor’s guilt that robert refers to is worse.