Oakland City Council to face six budget proposals tonight
on June 28, 2011
Just a few days before Oakland limps into the new fiscal year, the city now has six budget proposals. Last Friday, three budget scenarios, in addition to the three previously issued by Mayor Jean Quan in April, were introduced by three factions of the city council.
One proposal is by Councilmember Jane Brunner, Council President Larry Reid and Vice Mayor Desley Brooks, another is by Councilmember De La Fuente and the third is by the four remaining councilmembers—Rebecca Kaplan, Nancy Nadel, Libby Schaaf and Patricia Kernighan.
All three of the new proposals rely to some extent on getting city unions to make concessions, which involve either extending unpaid vacations, or requiring workers to pay more into their pensions or take pay cuts. See-saw negotiations between city officials and union leaders had been extensive in the past two weeks, and the city has reached tentative agreements with four major unions that would in total save the city about $28 million a year, according to a report by the East Bay Express. The four unions are the police and fire departments’ unions,the Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, according to the Express.
While the mayor called the three proposals from the council “identical” to her budget Option B, which assumes some union concessions, councilmembers say their plans also have modifications based on Quan’s budget Option A, or the “worst case” version of the three, which assumes no additional revenues from union concessions or from city voters passing an $80 parcel tax. Under this option, 14 out of 18 public libraries are slated for closure–among other cuts to city services–to close the city’s $58 million budget shortfall.
In addition to organizing various events to protest possible closures, including a “zombie” march and a 14-hour read-in at City Hall, library lovers have also been packing city council meetings in previous weeks. Hundreds of them have spoken in front of the council opposing cuts to library services.
In response, all three of the new budget proposals from the council would keep all the libraries open, as well as add back other services, such as keeping fire stations and recreation centers open. It’s certainly cheerful news for many who find those services critical to their lives, but for decision makers, a big question would have been resolved first—where would the money come from?
“We couldn’t bring back anything if we don’t have concessions [from the unions],” said North Oakland Councilmember Jane Brunner (District 1). However, Brunner said dollar amounts from the union concessions are not included in her group’s proposal because the negotiation results were uncertain when they drafted it.
According to the Brunner proposal, another way of raising money for the city would be selling the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center to the city’s redevelopment agency at a price of $29 million, $13 million of which would be paid by Central City Redevelopment District and the rest by Central City East District. However, the sale would have to be approved by both the council and the redevelopment agency during today’s concurrent meeting of the two groups. In addition, the proposal would eliminate a number of government positions while adding 369 parking meters in the city, which are expected to help the city garner additional revenue from parking fees.
In a separate budget proposal, Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (District 5) also suggested adding 369 parking meters and eliminating some city positions. In addition, his proposal includes a $3.7 million concession from the fire department and more mandatory leave-without-pay days for sworn officers.
Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan (At-large), Nancy Nadel (District 3), Libby Schaaf (District 4) and Patricia Kernighan (District 2) together drafted the third proposal, under which 44 police officers laid off last year would be rehired. This action alone would increase the city’s expenditures by more than $3.2 million. (By comparison, it costs the city about $5.4 million to maintain all of its library services).
“With public safety being such a critical issue to Oakland residents, it’s been a goal for Kaplan and her colleagues to try hiring back as many officers when possible,” said Jason Overman, communications director for Kaplan’s office.
In addition, Councilmember Schaaf said that the attrition assumption rate of the Oakland Police Department is increasing, meaning that more officers are leaving their positions each month without new officers being hired to take their place. “It takes a very long time—about a year and a half—to hire new officers,” said Schaaf, who believes that hiring back the laid-off officers is the most cost-effective way to maintain the city’s police presence.
Schaaf and her group also propose transferring $6 million of the Kaiser Convention Center proceeds from the city’s general fund to its reserve fund, which provides funding for emergency situations such as a firestorm or other cash flow issues. “It’s more fiscally responsible to use one-time revenues for one-time expenses, as opposed to operational expenses,” Schaaf said.
Schaaf’s team is also the boldest in terms of projecting union concessions. In their proposal, more than $12 million in concessions is needed to help balance the budget. “Some of the numbers you see are based on the conversation that has been taking place,” Overman said, who couldn’t elaborate more on the union negotiations due to confidential regulations. “[In short], a lot of progress has been made,” he said.
While councilmembers declined to talk about the details of union negotiations, Chuck Garcia, president of the firefighters’ union, said the fire union leaders have reached a tentative agreement with the city to contribute more than $9 million annually in the next three years. In order to do that, Garcia said, firefighters would take a pay cut of almost nine percent and make other types of concessions as well.
Garcia said the union members will vote on the agreement in early July and he’s hopeful that it will pass. “I don’t think it’s going to be a very wide margin though,” he said, adding that firefighters are “worried about giving all the concessions and the other unions are not doing anything.”
The Oakland City Council will discuss all the budget proposals during Tuesday’s council meeting in the Council Chamber on the third floor of Oakland City Hall.
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