Where does our money go?

Last night’s budget town hall meeting was depressing. Sure, the budget itself is hell of depressing, but what was even more depressing for me was how few people showed up. It was hard to do a good count, since there were all sorts of people swarming around the room, but I tried a couple of times, and as far as I can figure, there were at most thirty people there who weren’t either City staff or with the League of Women Voters.

There is one budget town hall left. It is on Monday, April 27th, and the Lakeside Garden Center from 6:30 to 8:00 PM (666 Bellevue Avenue), and I certainly hope it will be better attended than last night’s event. It’s a good opportunity to get an overview of the City’s budget, and of course, to share your input.

Anyway, before we consider how the budget should be distributed, we should probably look at the way the budget is currently distributed. I recommend reading the City’s budget fact sheet (PDF) for background.

For now, let’s take a look at the way things broke down last time around. The chart below lists the budget by department in the adopted 2008-09 budget (PDF). There are two columns, one for the total budget and one for the general fund. Most of the City’s budget is restricted for specific purposes, and the General Fund is the portion the the City has discretion over distributing. There are limitations to fund distribution within the General Fund as well, but I’ll save that for another day.

And for the visual learners out there, here’s the same information, presented in graphic form. The image below illustrates allocations for the total budget.

This one illustrates the spending breakdown within the General Purpose Fund.

And below you can see the budgeted staffing for each department.

Note: these numbers reflect the adopted 2008-09 budget and do not include the mid-cycle budget cuts from last year. I did try to present it that way, but the information from the City on that is so scattered, that after toying with it for what felt like forever, I still didn’t feel like I could be sure it was totally accurate.

For next year, the City is anticipating $414 million for the General Fund.

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14 thoughts on “Where does our money go?

  1. bennett

    A recent study showed that from 2000-2008, during the reign of Mr Bush, US Government employee compensation (rank & file), when fully loaded with the entitlements et al, was a 56% greater than comparable private sector by the end of his term. When he entered office, as I recall, the ratio was in the low 40% ( >private).

    Putting aside the methodology of staff reductions themselves, which may yield considerable savings if for example technology has improved efficiencies, redundancies can be identified, or (dreaming) excessive or out-of-date processes and compliance rules could be deleted thereby enable further staff cuts………
    I wonder what the ratio of Oakland Government employees vs. the local-area private sector compensation may be.

    Put differently, there has long been a rallying cry for “equal pay for equal work” for women. By extension, I wonder if the general business workforce of Oakland is receiving: “Equal pay for equal work” when compared to the fully-loaded Government sector?

    If not, perhaps it is time to normalize this – we should as they say, “all fee the pain”

  2. Dave C.

    Do we know who produced that pdf document? Of the various city-produced documents and websites I’ve looked at over the years, it is probably the most well-designed.

    I notice that about a third of non-fire, non-police general fund spending is classified as “non-departmental,” but I couldn’t find an explanation of what fits in that category. What falls under that rubric? Is debt service categorized as non-departmental?

  3. V Smoothe Post author

    Non-departmental includes:

    • Citywide activities: employee recognition, marketing, lobbying, etc. 08-09 total: $7,630,800; 08-09 General Fund: 5,980,800
    • Community promotion: arts, street festivals, tourism promotion. 08-09 total: $2,009,835; 08-09 General Fund: $2,009,835
    • Debt service and leases: 08-09 total: $246,950,734; 08-09 General Fund: $36,918,836
    • Fiscal management: payment of insurance premiums, contingency funds set-asides, etc. 08-09 total: $12,433,939; 08-09 General Fund: $14,597,276
  4. Jim T

    The parks and rec spending seems unfortunately low, especially considering what natural beauty we have in Oakland, and could better capitalize on. Especially downtown needs a bit more love in the P&R department.

    Anybody know how this compares, percentage-wise, to San Francisco? (a city which seems to maintain it’s parks beautifully) This question, I guess, gets to the root of the problem – ie is this a “management” problem, or something we can/should throw some more money at?

  5. Naomi Schiff

    It can be difficult to accurately compare budget with SF which is both a city and a county, and thus has a much larger budget by comparison with Oakland, even allowing for population difference. (But then they have to run a hospital, big jail, county social services, etc.) They collect much more property tax. Our property tax supports Alameda County as well as the city.

    And, in these discussions we are not seeing the redevelopment sector of the Oakland budget, which is large, though restricted in various ways.

    In the pie chart distributed by the city, parks & rec and libraries are each said to be about 3 percent of the general fund. Parks & rec has been slammed repeatedly in earlier budget cycles and is now extremely understaffed, overworked, and having to leave things undone. Libraries are very heavily used during high unemployment times, especially now that they provide the main internet access for many people. I don’t think we should cut either department at all.

    I think we should be looking at the revenue side, and looking for ways to intensely focus on promoting small -to-midsize business development, something Economic Development is not always making a high enough priority. Create jobs, populate vacant retail frontages, and we will enhance safety and liveability as well.

  6. Naomi Schiff

    And I agree that it was startling how few people turned out, though the heat in the room may have driven some away.

  7. Ken

    N//V- i’m super busy with work and personal life. i’d love to attend these types of meetings once things are more settled.

    you guys reporting back is valuable. keep it up.

  8. Ralph

    With the exception of Brooks and IDLF, I am not convinced that council actual listens to the voters. They poll their little favorite groups and make a decision based on the outcome of those love-ins.

    I love parks but from my perspective you can not take $2MM away from parks and libraries, which apparently everyone loves, and then tax us to make up some of the lost revenue. And god forbid that the OO compromise fail.

  9. len raphael

    How about shifting some money away from the city attorney’s office and over to the city auditor’s dept? outsource more of the city attorney work? (ok, so i’m a little biased)

    -len raphael

  10. Dave O

    The OPD needs to take some of the massive resources that they put into harassing people like Geoffrey Peet (not to mention ordinary people on the street) and use it to fight crime. Who gave them this big agenda of meddling in everything? Oakland is paying the OPD large sums to tear the city apart.

  11. Max Allstadt

    Dave O,

    I don’t know what city you live in, but allow me to summarize my experiences with OPD:

    Iive in West Oakland, and when I see drug deals repeated on the same corner, when I see child prostitutes soliciting, when I see pimps breaking into vacant houses and setting up shop… I call OPD, and they usually show up pretty fast.

    I have also had a friend hauled off to Santa Rita because he was drinking in public and he had a warrant. The cops who busted him were totally civil about it, because my friend calmed down and was totally civil about it.

    I have no doubt that there are bad cops on the force, as there are in any department. I have no doubt that there’s intitutional dysfunction in OPD and OPOA that keeps both organizations from giving this city the best they can. But simplistic comments like yours don’t help push things forward.

    I’ll quote a favorite film for you:

    “There are no good guys, there are no bad guys… It’s just a bunch of guys.”