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Council set to OK $449 million budget

By John Geluardi
Tuesday June 26, 2001

The city manager and the City Council will attempt to iron out differences in funding proposals this afternoon before approving Berkeley’s $449 million two-year budget at a special council meeting. 

The council is bound by the City Charter to adopt a budget prior to the June 30 close of the fiscal year. 

The proposed budget does not cut funding to any existing programs or departments except the Berkeley Housing Authority where reductions are required to address a budget deficit of $300,000. In fact, some programs, which were given priority status by the council, will receive increased funding. 

High on the council’s list of priorities were safety issues including police staffing, the Hills Fire Station construction and disaster preparedness. Other priorities include energy conservation, response to health disparities, the Live Oak Park Recreation Center and the Eastshore Park Plan. 

The proposed two-year budget is about $22 million more than the previous biennial budget. It is larger than projected revenues by about $5 million for fiscal year 2001-2002 and $18 million for the following year.  

Deputy City Manager Phil Kamlarz said the discrepancies are within normal ranges because the proposed budget cannot reflect some grants and funds carried over from previous years, which should make up the shortfalls in revenue projections. 

Mayor Shirley Dean and Councilmember Dona Spring have both submitted  

proposals that differ slightly from the city manager’s.  

“There’s not a lot of difference in the city manager’s budget and the proposals from the mayor and Councilmember Spring. We should be able to tweak it just enough to get agreement,” Kamlarz said. 

For example, the mayor proposed $48,000 for the Healthy Start Program at Rosa Parks school, while Spring proposed $34,000 for the program. The city manager put $48,000 for the program into his budget proposal. Dean proposed $143,000 for arts grants, while Spring proposed $70,000. The city manager wrote $100,000 into his proposed budget for arts grants. 

After receiving recommendations from councilmembers on June 12, and hearing requests from several organizations at a public budget hearing last Tuesday, the city manager made adjustments to his proposal on Monday.  

To help close the gap between proposals and requests from organizations, he added about $51,000 of funding for various nonprofit programs including the Tinkers’ Workshop, Through the Looking Glass and the Young Artists’ Workshop. 

The city manager’s budget includes one-time funding of $1.6 million for anticipated payouts of sick time to public safety personal who are expected to retire in the coming year under the newly negotiated 3 Percent at 50 Program, which allows police and fire personnel to retire at age 50 and collect 3 percent of their salary for every year they were employed by the city, according to Kamlarz.  

“About 40 percent of the police department will be eligible to retire in the coming year and we don’t know how many are going to take the option,” he said.  

An increase to a recurring program is $900,000 to the citywide response to the energy crisis and $400,000 for Fire Department overtime. 

Kamlarz said there has been extraordinary agreement between the councilmembers and the city manager this year. He said part of the reason is the early priority setting sessions that took place in March. 

“The last budget was the first time we used the priority setting process and this time it worked much better,” he said. “I think we learned a lot from our mistakes.” 

Councilmember Mim Hawley agreed. “This is my first budget, but from what I’m hearing this one is going relatively smoothly,” she said. “But of course we still have to get through tomorrow’s meeting.” 

Hawley said the budget is a good one that reflects the local character. “I’m considered fiscally responsible and I have to say there are an awful lot of good funding proposals for nonprofits in the arts and for programs that help seniors and the disabled,” she said. “This budget reflects the people of Berkeley.”