Page One

Council Gets First Look At ‘05 Budget Proposals

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday January 27, 2004

Berkeley City Council members get their first look at City Manager Phil Kamlarz’ 2004-05 city budget proposals during a 5 p.m. working session tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 27), with votes on three specific cost-cutting measures scheduled for the 7 p.m. regular meeting. 

Councilmembers are also set to vote on North Berkeley neighbors’ appeal to stop the proposed placement of a Sprint cellular antennae facility in a commercial building on the corner of Cedar Street and Shattuck Avenue. 

The city manager’s proposals include a 20 percent reduction in all city departments as well as a controversial idea to eliminate some of the city’s commissions and consolidate others. And while Mayor Tom Bates earlier suggested a tax measure on the November ballot as a possible alternative, Kamlarz was more definitive. In his Budget Status Report to be released tonight, Kamlarz writes, “While the city council did not pursue a special tax measure in March, a November 2004 ballot measure is needed.” 

But Berkeley’s budget deficit continues to be a moving target. In his report, Kamlarz puts the shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year beginning in July (2005) at $8 million—the low end projections during last November’s debate over the since-discarded fire parcel tax. However, in a press release issued Monday announcing the Budget Status Report, Kamlarz estimates the “projected budget gap” as “up to $10-$12 million.” 

Kamlarz’ proposals are only the first step in a procedure scheduled to end with the adoption of the 2005 budget sometime in June, and the council will not vote on the proposals tonight. 

At its 7 p.m. meeting, councilmembers will consider two budget reduction proposals from the city manager’s office: one authorizing the city manager to open negotiations with the city’s labor unions over cost-cutting measures, another to look for savings by restructuring the police department’s PERS contributions. PERS restructuring is not expected to affect how much police officers actually receive from the retirement system. 

A third proposal from councilmembers Gordon Wozniak and Miriam Hawley would allow fellow councilmembers to voluntarily turn back their automatic cost-of-living raise this year. 

Tonight’s vote on the Sprint cellular facility stems from a two-year struggle by neighbors to prevent three antennae from being placed on the rooftop of a commercial building at Cedar and Shattuck, with related equipment in the basement. 

Sprint says the facility is needed to improve cellular phone coverage in North Berkeley, and is permissible under the city’s Wireless Telecommunication Facility Ordinance. Neighbors have argued that Sprint cellular coverage in the area is fine, and that the new facility poses a health hazard. 

Federal law places health issues of cellular phone antennae under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission, and Berkeley officials can’t consider the issue. The council held a public hearing on the neighbors’ appeal at last week’s meeting. 

Councilmembers have also scheduled consideration of a report from members Linda Maio, Miriam Hawley, Gordon Wozniak and Betty Olds on a controversial plan to provide free, no-limit, exclusive on-street parking spots for the city’s parking enforcement staff near the Ashby BART station. 

At the council’s request, the four-member subcommittee met last week with enforcement staff representatives and BART-area merchants and neighbors. The subcommittee is expected to present a compromise proposal at tonight’s meeting. 

The council will also discussion extension of the Bay Trail to the Berkeley Marina, pulled from the consent calendar last week by Councilmember Dona Spring because of her concerns about the plan’s proposal to cut nearly 100 trees.