With the release last week by Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums of a budget that proposes to spend $1.1 billion per year over the next two fiscal years, the focus of Oakland’s budget discussion now shifts to the Oakland City Council.
The council is scheduled to formally receive the mayor’s proposed budget at a May 15 special meeting, with four more meetings planned in a month before a scheduled June 19 adoption. A sixth council budget meeting has been tentatively scheduled for June 21 if the council cannot come to an agreement by the June 19 meeting.
In addition, several councilmembers have planned community budget meetings to be held within their individual districts.
Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, who is expected to have a major say in reshaping the budget to meet the council’s desires as well as the mayor’s, was sick and out of the office this week and not available for comment.
De La Fuente has scheduled two community meetings for the Fifth District he represents, one for the evening of Thursday, May 31, and the second for the morning of Saturday, June 2. Locations for the meetings have yet to be set.
Last year, Dellums campaigned on soaring promises of making Oakland a “model city,” with far-reaching initiatives to tackle its most serious and long-standing problems.
Though Dellums has not backed away from that vision, his May 3 budget message to the City Council made it plain that money for far-reaching new initiatives was not in Oakland’s current financial reach, and this was a hold-harmless budget that, at its best, keeps most current city programs and offices intact.
“This is a balanced budget that continues funding levels for most existing programs, but a budget severely constrained by rising costs, stringent spending requirements, and limited revenues,” Dellums wrote. “While this budget touches on [my policy] priorities, it is neither a transformative budget nor an expression of my vision of Oakland as a 21st Century Model city. There are simply too few resources to address the magnitude of the problems facing Oakland. … With existing funds, we are not able to invest in our people or maintain our infrastructure. To address Oakland's short- and long-term needs, we need to develop our local economy to increase current revenue sources, as well as develop new sustainable revenue streams and program-specific funds. This is not a new discovery, but it is important for the residents of Oakland to understand that Oakland’s needs cannot be met solely through Oakland’s current budget.”
But Dellums has proposed to address one of his most persistent campaign themes in the new budget, calling for the creation of a new position of Public Safety Director to work directly out of the mayor’s office. Last year, during the mayoral campaign, Dellums consistently criticized the governmental breakdown in New Orleans and along the Mississippi River area during and after Hurricane Katrina. During last month’s Frick Middle School Town Hall meeting, he said he did not want to repeat those mistakes in Oakland, and that with earthquakes the major natural disaster facing the East Bay, he wanted a Public Safety Director to directly coordinate disaster preparedness.
While telling Councilmembers that “spending constraints severely limit the possibility of proposing new programs,” Dellums has also proposed $2.4 million for what he called “a very limited set of” new program initiatives in the area of support for children and youth, health, police, violence prevention, and human rights, among them an Oakland Human Rights Commission, an HIV screening program, 21 additional recreation staffmembers for after school programs, and additional staffmembers specifically designed to “to reduce barriers to ex-offenders finding City jobs.”
The budget is based a $21.5 million increase in city revenue in FY2007-08 and a $14 million increase in FY2008-09, based upon forecasted economic growth of 4.8 percent this year and 3 percent the year after. The budget document says that “the revenue forecast is consistent with economists’ forecasts of moderate economic growth - without any indications of recession in sight.”
Highlights of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums’
Fiscal Year 2008 and 2009 Proposed Budget
Mayor Dellums’ Budget Priorities: to increase public safety and reduce crime and violence; to foster sustainable economic growth and development for the benefit of Oakland and Oakland residents; to create a sense of hope and empowerment, especially among youth; to give Oakland residents the opportunity to lead a healthy life; and to deliver City services in an open, transparent, effective and efficient manner.
Principal Goal: to maintain fiscal prudence while avoiding cuts in current program levels.
Funding Levels: Currently existing funding levels have been maintained, according to the Mayor’s office, for “most existing programs.” In other words, no major, across-the-board funding cuts.
New program initiatives
• $600,000 for 21 additional part-time (afternoon/evening) recreation staff to staff and support after-school programs.
• $100,000 for additional staff to assist ex-offenders finding City jobs.
• $400,000 for City/County collaboration on Children, Families and Youth.
• $100,000 for a City/County HIV/AIDS initiative for testing, counseling, and treatment efforts.
• $400,000 to add 5 non-sworn staff positions to support Chief Wayne Tucker’s geographic policing reorganization.
• $300,000 for additional Mayor’s Office inter-governmental relations staff for the purpose of seeking increased funding for the City of Oakland from federal and state governments and philanthropic organizations.
• $200,000 for continuation of one-time Council funding of the middle-school sports program.
• $200,000 for increased support for Chabot Space and Science Center.
• $100,000 for initial funding to support a Human Rights Commission.
Need for additional revenues
The mayor’s proposed budget is based upon a one-time allocation of $3.5 million to make up a shortfall in the Landscaping and Lighting Assessment District (LLAD). The mayor’s office anticipates that in order to keep current funding levels for maintenance of street lighting, parks, fields, medians and trees, the City will have to go back to Oakland voters prior to the beginning of the 2008-09 fiscal year to request an increase in the LLAD assessment.