Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Debate on Oakland City Budget starts tonight!

The possibility of more spending on police protection for the citizens of Oakland will compete for attention as the City Council begins the process of adopting a two year budget.  Over the past 4-5 years the city has seen revenues decline and this has led to service reductions across just about every department.  While the people of Oakland have suffered the most, employee unions have made concessions to help balance the budget.

The good news is Mayor Quan and City Administrator Santana report revenues are starting to revive somewhat.  Nevertheless it is clear we are far from fully recovered and careful budgeting is still required.  Structural deficits still total over $150 million over the next five years and if contributions to pension and health costs were made as they should be that five year deficit total would balloon to over $650 million.  And that doesn’t include the amounts the City is already behind in paying! 

In the police department alone the number of sworn officers has fallen from 837 to 611. Civilian police staff has dropped by an even greater percentage from 394 people to 261.  Even with the just completed Police Academy and the two others starting this year the number of sworn officers will not reach even 700 officers.  If no further academies are scheduled the number will again start moving below the even intolerably low number we have today.

Even with these cuts of the last few years, police spending amounts to less than 20% of the overall city budget.  Public works takes up just a little more than 12% of all spending and the fire department 11%.  And yet in a city wide poll last Fall the people of Oakland identified road repair and police services as their clear top two priorities.

The City Council has made important steps to addressing our urgent public safety needs in the last few months.  We should continue to support those efforts.  At budget time many worthy and even not so worthy demands are made on the Council for funding.  We need to let them hear our voice calling for investment in saving lives and making our community safe!

Important Dates
April 2: Council budget workshop
April 15-19: Public Release of Proposed Budget
April 30: Presentation of Proposed Budget to City Council

May: Budget Town Hall Meetings Citywide
May 30: Proposed City Council Budget Hearing #1

June 13: Proposed City Council Budget Hearing #2
June 27: Proposed Final City Council Budget Hearing/Adoption

July 1: Implementation of FY 13-15 Adopted Budget

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