Dellums requests tax increase for more police

Read all about it on The Oakbook.

The new parcel tax for additional police officers will likely be accompanied on the November ballot by a charter amendment that would extend the City’s deadline to fund their retirement obligations for the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) (PDF!) beyond the currently set date of July 1, 2026. The City’s currently unfunded liability for PFRS is roughly $330 million, and it’s only going up (seriously. In July 2006, the unfunded liability was estimated at $268.7 million).

The extension was requested at today’s Rules Committee meeting. Ignacio De La Fuente was decidedly skeptical of the measure, saying that he understood the idea behind pushing back the deadline is to offer the City flexibility, but that “At some point, somebody, maybe our grandchildren, will have to pay.” The Committee declined to place the ballot on the City Council’s agenda just yet, instead asking staff to return next week with more information about similar deadlines in other cities.

So just to be clear what’s going on. In November, you will be asked to vote to tax yourself to pay for more police. At the same time, you’ll probably also be asked to vote to put off paying the full costs of our obligations to a number of retired public safety employees until who knows when. I’m not opposed to more police, and I’m not even opposed in theory to a tax increase that would support additional officers. But I don’t think that the City deserves any more taxpayer money until they can demonstrate that they can be trusted to spend what they get responsibly. I don’t want us to end up like Vallejo.

11 thoughts on “Dellums requests tax increase for more police

  1. Max Allstadt

    V -

    What’s our annual budget and what’s the deficit? I’d like to know how the two compare before I worry about us becoming another Vallejo. It would seem that there are a number of milestones we’ll have to pass before a debacle of that magnitude sets in, no?

  2. V Smoothe Post author

    Oakland’s annual budget is roughly $1 billion, although only about $60 million of that is discretionary. Our shortfall this year was about $14.7 million. I’m not saying we’re going bankrupt tomorrow, but our unfunded retirement liabilities are, frankly, terrifying.

    If we don’t extend the deadline for funding our obligations, we’re going to have to find something like $23-30 million/year (I think) starting in 2011 to pay into that. If we do extend it…well, we’ll put off the day of reckoning a little longer, but like Ignacio says, at some point somebody is going to have to pay this, and the longer we wait, the uglier it’s going to be.

    Anyway, I really don’t know a ton about this issue, and the discussion today was pretty brief, so I don’t feel comfortable commenting much beyond what I’ve said already before doing some additional research.

  3. Max Allstadt

    Next question:

    What kind of salary does the CEO of a 1 billion dollar a year corporation draw? How about the next 8 people down the totem pole?

    Like I say, you get what you pay for.

  4. TheBoss

    I actually find parcel taxes hilarious, because they are 100% regressive. There are houses in Oakland that cost something like $50k to buy. This tax would cost those homeowners 0.5% of their entire home value annually, whereas for a $1M house, it’s basically zero.

    So, bravo Comrade Dellums for your regressive taxation plan!

  5. Colin

    Funny thing about the Vallejo comparison: part of how they ended up where they are is by offering overly generous packages to Oakland police. Oakland’s police academy is still one of the best, and after officers do their mandatory time in Oakland they often get offers from other cities. Vallejo’s was unrealistically generous, and they never managed to build the tax base to back it up.

    Not that it has much to do with the subject of this post, but it’s interesting.

  6. Max Allstadt

    Serves them right for poaching our cops when we need’m most. My sympathy just evaporated.

  7. Robert

    V – I am having trouble understanding how out of a $1 billion budget there is only $60M discrestionary. It is my understanding that about 60% of the budget is police/fire. And much of that is “discretionary” in the sense that the city government can change how much is spend on these as part of the budget process. Except for items that are fixed by state or federal law, and what has been dictated by initiatives approved by the voters, isn’t the rest of the budget discretionary?

  8. V Smoothe Post author

    Robert –

    The short answer to your question is no, and also sort of yes. It’s complicated. I want to do a little series here on the budget – explaining the budget in general, the discussions the Council has been having about the mid-cycle budget, and what they ended up approving last week. It’s taking me longer to write than I had hoped, but hopefully I’ll be able to do it next week.

  9. oakie

    Max asked what a $1Billion enterprise pays it’s CEO. A valid question. But add in additional information about this particular “enterprise” before answering that: a failing enterprise.

    To me, the city’s highest priority responsibilities to it’s citizens are: public safety (we’re the most dangerous city to live in west of the Missiissippi), fix the potholes (we’re on an 85 year schedule for maintaining our streets) and libraries (our libraries have shorter hours than banks). So the answer to your question is zero to the person who is operating an enterprise to these standards.

    Do we need a tax increase to support more cops? Yes, this spends $1 Billion per year, half hidden inside ‘nondiscretionary’ categories of spending. But we did have enough money to give several millions to YOUR Black Muslim Bakery, $25 Million each year to the Raiders, $300,000 to a nonexistent “co-operative” food enterprise in West Oakland, $50,000 for a Food Policy Council to teach people to eat food (defined as recognizable as food by your grandmother), mostly plants, not too much, and the list goes on. I am sure everyone has more they could add to this list.

    And we have something like 4,000-5,000 employees. The top non-elected employee is about to resign so she doesn’t loose her pension after interfering with a police arrest of someone now charged with multiple felonies. Do you think all 5,000 employees of this city are earning their wages?

    No, this city has not demonstrated that they deserve mroe money. Instead, they should be spending the money they already have well, and do the highest priority responsibilities FIRST, then, if there’s more money in the coffers, tank on lower priority tasks. But don’t waste all the money, not do the highest priority tasks first, and THEN ask for more money.

    As to the pension extension: of course, this is simply irresponsible and typical of people like Mayor Sleepy to not make current government responsible for paying their obligations. It is precisely what Bush II has been doing to the country (unlike the Feds, a city can’t just print the money and borrow whatever they want to).

    Both ballot items should be rejected.

  10. Max Allstadt

    We could raise millions over the next decade if we took the administrator’s pension. Can a resignation be rejected?

  11. Robert

    When I first heard about the proposal to mandate 300 more officers without funding I thought it was a stupid idea. But now I am starting to think that it might be a good idea. Oakland certainly could use more police. And since 300 more police would divert essentially all of the available budget to the police it would force all of the other departments in the city to justify their existence, and justify to the voters a tax increase to support the non-police and fire activities. Either that or Oakland would declare bankruptcy, which would allow it to renegotiate all of its contracts – both public safety and other civil service, and to greatly reduce the size of government. Starting perhaps with all of Edgerly’s relatives on the payroll?