As those who have been following the budget process are aware, I have been extremely vocal about the fact that the longer we put off balancing the budget the larger the deficit is going to grow; unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened. The Mayor is responsible for submitting a balanced budget proposal to the council, and the council must pass a balanced budget by June 30th of each calendar year. As of today, the two year 09-11 budget is not yet balanced. In November of 2009, the projected deficit for the 10-11 budget was $25.4 million (PDF), today that figure is $42.6 million (PDF).
Since last June I have very publicly urged my colleagues on the City Council and my constituents in District 5 to put a priority on maintaining core City services while we pursue long-term options to address this economic crisis. Public Safety is a core function that ought to be a priority of local governments but in order to avoid laying off police officers, very difficult decisions need to be made and everyone needs to share the pain, including police and it doesn’t necessarily need to mean laying off 200 officers.
I have already presented a series of recommendations which would help the City avoid laying off 200 police officers. Among the recommendations I have urged my colleagues take action on include:
- Sworn employees (police) must 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.
- Cuts to non-sworn personnel in the police department would also be necessary in order to avoid cutting sworn staff. Unpopular as it may be, this means Neighborhood Service Coordinators (NSC). I prefer this option as an alternative to cutting sworn police officers because NSC’s currently cost taxpayers $1.8 million annually.
- Creating a 2-Tier Pension system for new hires. Implementation of a two tiered retirement system, one benefit plan for exiting police (3% at 50) and a less expensive plan for new police hires (2% at 50). In the case of non-sworn employees, a plan of (2.7% at 55) for current employees and for new non-sworn employees (2% at 55) would all reduce the City’s costs.
The City should NOT be in the business of operating golf courses or convention centers, as we find ourselves today. As a means to generate revenue to address the current fiscal crisis, I have recommended that we:
- Sell our golf courses. The sale of just half of the 235 acres entitled for residential where Chabot Golf course currently sits would generate approximately $30 million in revenue. Additionally, the sale of the 10 acres entitled for residential at Montclair Golf Course would generate upwards of $5 million.
- Sell the Henry J Kaiser Convention Center. The revenue generated from the sale of this property is projected at approximately $11 million. We simply do not have the luxury of sitting on some of our real estate assets when we are facing financial consequences such as laying off police officers.
We are in a fiscal crisis and many unpopular decisions need to be made and it all comes down to determining what our core priorities are. If we want to save in one place, we need to cut in others, it’s that simple. If sworn personnel do not contribute to their pensions, we’ll be forced to cut officers. 265 non-sworn full-time positions have already been eliminated from the City’s budget; urge the police and fire unions to give back so that we can save as many sworn personnel positions as possible.
Thank you and, as always, I look forward to your feedback and support.