Last night, at the first of Oakland’s two scheduled budget readings, the City Council voted to approve a range of recommendations with the goal of balancing the FY 2010-2011 budget. Going into Thursday night’s meeting, the City faced an unresolved shortfall of $31.5million in FY 2010-11. The deficit is projected to increase to $48.3 million in FY 2011-12 and then to 60.1 million in 2012-13. Already this year, the City has balanced $11 million out of the $42 million shortfall anticipated for Fiscal Year 2010-11, which begins on July 1, 2010. The balancing measures, much of which were prepared by me, Council President Brunner and Council Members Quan and Kernighan passed by a vote of 5-3.
Included in last night’s budget balancing proposal were cuts to every city department, including the sale of city owned property, eliminating all free employee parking, 5% salary reductions for employees making over $100,000, a 15% cut to the offices of all elected officials, and more. The full detailed proposal can be found here.
How we got here:
As those who have been following the budget process are aware, I have been extremely vocal about the fact that we are dealing with a structural deficit, meaning that that it will only grow in future years unless ongoing balancing measures are implemented.
There is a very real problem when the City spends $485 million annually and we only generate $410 million. It is not sustainable. We have a responsibility to balance our budget each year, unlike the state and federal government. I am the first to say that these approved budget recommendations do not reflect all of the important structural changes that need to be made in the City, but we have made many painful decisions that I hope will be implemented as soon as possible.
As it pertains to police officers, the City is continuing to look at ways to address the tremendous crisis we find ourselves in. My position is that we cannot merely do what we need to do to get through the current fiscal year or wait until a ballot measure is voted on in November.
No one on the City Council wants to lay-off police officers. No one doubts that the majority of men and women in our police department work extremely hard everyday to patrol our streets and keep us safe. But the reality is that the City of Oakland is in an economic crisis and unless our police department works with us, rather than against us, to restructure the budget, our City is going to find itself in a crisis which will continue to threaten the economic viability of our city and the employment of many of the police union’s very own membership.
I know I sound like a broken record but I firmly believe in and will continue to push for management tools and technological enhancements within our police department because I believe that until we have these critical systems in place to accurately measure and analyze police workloads, deployment tactics, response times, and real-time crime stats, we will never know how many officers Oakland needs.
Systems such as GPS devices, In-car video cameras, and Comstat are being used by cities and police departments all over the country to not only enhance officer and public safety but also to make officers more accountable to citizens.
Demanding accountability doesn’t mean I don’t support our officers, it merely reflects the responsibility I have to the people who actually pay for our police officers – the residents and business owners of Oakland who deserve to know the tremendous monetary costs associated with staffing Oakland’s police force.
If we had these systems in place today, it could show on a daily basis where our resources and personnel are, how they are deployed, and the results they are achieving, or where we are falling short. They would also tell us how many officers we have on the street on any given day versus how many are sitting behind a desk riding on the coat-tails of those officers who are hard at work on the streets of our city.
Delaying the implementation of these tools is costing taxpayers’ money, the same way the City’s lack of urgency to balance this budget has driven us into an even deeper financial hole.
I recognize and agree that Public Safety is a core function that ought to be a priority of local governments but in an effort to avoid laying off police officers, I have for months been urging the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) to come to the negotiating table and agree to contribute to a portion of their pensions. Today their contribution is zero. A 9% contribution from police sworn personnel would save the City approximately $7.3 million per year. This figure is equivalent to the annual cost of 36 fully loaded (salary & benefits) police officers. Thus far the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) has been unwilling to agree to this concession and have said publicly that they will “not agree to any concessions that include layoffs”. There is no logical way that we could guarantee there wouldn’t be layoffs when we have even bigger budget deficits next year and the following year, and meanwhile, the police and fire departments continue to make up more than 70% of the general purpose fund costs for the entire city.
I can personally say that when times were “good”, I was supportive of several negotiations which benefited public safety unions. Now it is their responsibility to recognize that the City is not in the same position it was in years past. The devastating fiscal crisis we’re experiencing leaves us very few options, and forces us to cut programs, services, and personnel citywide. It should be clear to everyone including the police union that these are not “good” times; very difficult decisions need to be made, and everyone needs to share the pain – including police.
Beyond the role they have already played in the process, residents may soon have the option to help guide the way Oakland navigates this economic crisis, in the form of a ballot measure, or “Measure Y fix”. The “Measure Y fix” that will likely appear on your November ballot seeks to modify Measure Y, a 2004 voter approved parcel tax measure that guaranteed $19 million a year in parcel taxes for police if the city budgeted for 739 officers by rescinding the 739 budgeted officers’ requirement for three years.
Because I don’t believe we have the luxury of relying on the unknown results of still unwritten ballot measures to balance this or any budget, included in the $31 million in balancing measures is a direction to the City Administrator to lay off 80 police officers as of July 2010.
What you need to know about the police layoffs and a possible “Measure Y fix”:
- If Oakland voters oppose a forthcoming “Measure Y fix” to rescind the restriction on Measure Y, the City will lay off an additional 122 police officers in January 2011.
- If Oakland voters approve a forthcoming “Measure Y fix” to rescind the restriction on Measure Y, the City will lay off an additional 27 police officers in January 2011.
I wish to thank all of my colleagues on the council and all the City staff who work hard daily serve the residents and businesses of Oakland. In particular, I want to thank Council members Brunner, Quan, and Kernighan and their staff for their partnership in crafting a proposal that balances the FY 2010-11 budget.
I also wish to thank the countless residents, business owners, organizations and other people who invest in Oakland and have provided their feedback and budget recommendations to support us during this very challenging process.
I hope we continue to use this crisis as an opportunity to get the city on a path to financial recovery so that we can finally begin to live within our means. There is more work to be done.