This Tuesday, less than a month after we passed our 2009-11 budget, the Oakland City Council will be back in Chambers (except for Nancy Nadel, who will be teleconferencing in from Jamaica) doing it all over again , looking to make nearly $19 million in new cuts. Fun!
So how did the hole get so big so fast? Well, first, the budget passed last June assumed a stimulus grant that would fund 140 police officers. We knew at the time we probably wouldn’t get the entire grant, and would have to open up the budget at some point and make up the difference. At this point, we’re expecting to receive funding for only 40.7 of those 140 officers, which leaves us $11.3 million short of where we were hoping to be.
This leaves us with some very unpleasant choices. One, we could go ahead and lay off 100 police officers, but then we’d have to stop collecting Measure Y taxes, which would mean laying off an additional 63 officers, for a total of 163 officers lost, plus giving up significant funding for the Fire Department and violence prevention programs. Since nobody wants to do that, we’re stuck with finding another $11.3 million in cuts elsewhere in the budget.
On top of that, the budget the Council passed assumed $11.92 million in reductions to the Police Department budget, but didn’t say how we were going to do it. Now we have to figure that out, leaving us with $23.22 million to cut. Then, it turns out we may have to repay Measure Y $2.14 million (fallout from Marleen Sacks’s lawsuit), bringing the total amount we need to find to $25.36 million. Fortunately (sort-of), the budget we passed included a $6.62 million surplus, so if use all that money to cover the shortfall, we’re left with $18.74 million to cut. Ouch.
So how are we going to get there? You can read the whole proposal that will come before the Council here (PDF), but here are some of the highlights:
- Savings due to changes in police contract: $8.5 million
- Reduce police overtime: $3.98 million
- Eliminate 4 Neighborhood Service Coordinators: $0.3 million
- Eliminate 7 other non-sworn police department positions: $0.46 million
- Eliminate Rangers (who patrol the parks): $0.21 million
- Ground OPD helicopter: $0.25 million
- Raise police department special event permit fees: $0.09 million
- Close San Antonio Recreation Center: $0.09 million
- Close Main Library 2 days/week: $0.12 million
- Reduce arts grants by 20%: $0.23 million
- Reduce other non-departmental subsidies (Chabot, Zoo, etc.) an additional 10%: $0.3 million
- Begin peak hour parking pilot program: $0.64 million
- Raise expired meter parking fee $10: $0.53 million
There’s also a bunch of other layoffs and elimination or freezing of vacancies scattered across departments in there, for a total of 49.04 FTEs being eliminated, 36.04 of which are currently filled. The proposed layoffs include 12 Public Works positions that had been eliminated in the Mayor’s budget, but were restored by the Council.
Some of these measures are new – closing the San Antonio recreation center and reducing the Main Library to 5 day per week service weren’t on the table before. But a lot of it was proposed in June and rejected by the Council.
The peak hour parking program, which would raise meter fees to $3/hour downtown (which the exception of Chinatown and Jack London Square) from 10am-2pm, would generate a lot of money, as would the increase of the expired meter parking fee to $65. But the Council wasn’t willing to do either of those things before, for fear of hurting businesses with the meter fees and angering residents with the high ticket prices. Given the widespread outrage over the ticket and meter increases they already adopted, it’s hard to imagine anyone on the Council having the stomach to raise them even higher so quickly.
Likewise, the Police Department offers up the Rangers and Neighborhood Service Coordinators (NSCs) for cuts pretty much every time we come back to the budget, but so far, the Council has been pretty adamant about keeping them. Both the Rangers and the NSCs have large numbers of extremely devoted advocates who are quick to raise hell every single time these positions are threatened.
But there simply isn’t enough money to pay for everything, and many services have already been sliced so drastically, it’s tough to imagine where the funds avoid such cuts are going to come from. There was talk in the last budget discussions of sending police back to the airport to save some money, but at least back then, a number of Councilmembers seemed strongly resistant to the idea. Most depressing of all, it’s pretty much certain that this won’t be the worst of it, and we’re going to have to be back at this again several times over the year.
The meeting starts at 5 PM on Tuesday.