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City Considers Budget Cuts

Tuesday April 08, 2003

City Council meets Tuesday at 5 p.m. to discuss possible budget cuts to compensate for a projected $11 million city deficit over the next two years.  

Budget officials from the City Manager’s Office will present the council with recommendations for dealing with the budget shortfall that include offsetting a $4.7 million deficit for fiscal year 2004 by cutting general fund expenditures and raising parking fines from $23 to $30.  

The projected shortfall for the following year is $8 million. City Council will consider a proposed November 2004 tax-hike ballot measure to raise enough funds to avoid major service cutbacks. However, if the ballot measure is not approved by council, or if it is approved but fails at the polls, the council will have a contingency plan that will make $4 million to $5 million in one-time cuts from the general fund. 

The council also will consider possible cost-cutting measures for the city’s 49 commissions. Some of the measures include combining commissions with similar goals, reducing the frequency of meetings for less critical commissions and requiring commissions to write annual work programs, for which City Council would approve funding. 

During the regular meeting, the council will consider the American Baptist Seminary of the West’s plan to develop its campus in the 2600 block of Dwight Way. The seminary, which currently has 11 buildings, is proposing three projects including a five-story building, 41 new dwelling units and a 21-bed dormitory. Last week council closed a public hearing during which neighbors squared off against seminary officials over the merits of the project. 

Seminary officials said the campus needs the additional residential units to house students, staff and faculty. Neighbors said the project is too large and will alter the neighborhood ambiance on Hillegass and Benvenue avenues.  

Neighbors argued to preserve two cottages — one built in 1899, the other in 1906 — that are slated for demolition. 

The Landmarks Preservation Commission had approved both for historical status, but City Council rejected the approval because of a state law that forbids the landmarking of buildings owned by religious institutions.  

Architectural historian Tim Kelley, hired by the seminary, told council the buildings do not merit preservation.  

Some councilmembers said they might support the project with some changes. Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Linda Maio said they were concerned about the height of the proposed five-story building.  

“I think I could support a project that was four stories tall,” Bates said.  

City Council meets in City Council Chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way at 7 p.m. Meetings are also broadcast on KPFB Radio 89.3 and Cable B-TV channel 25 and 78.