Oakland’s Budget: How Did The Mayor Set Priorities in the Three Scenarios?

Part Two

On May 26, and at additional meetings in June, Oakland’s City Council will be considering one or more of the three budget proposals submitted on April 29 by Mayor Jean Quan. Mayor Quan has named the three budget proposals Scenario A (All Cuts Budget) Scenario B (Cuts Plus Savings from Employee Concessions) and Scenario C (Cuts, Plus Employee Savings, Plus Income from a Presumed $80 per Parcel Property Tax).

Make Oakland Better Now! (MOBN!) has combed through these documents, and still has many unanswered questions. The answers may be available, but as far as we can tell, they don’t appear in the budget documents. Our first post was at A Better Oakland, here. In the coming days, MOBN! will raise more questions here at Oaktalk and try to explain why the answers matter.

As stated in MOBN!’s last post, one way to identify the city’s priorities is to look at how it actually spends its money and where it makes its budget cuts. Interpreting the three scenarios for this purpose; however, presents challenges.

Each budget scenario includes reductions which have not been applied to individual departments or programs. In Scenario A, Mayor Quan proposes a reduction of $13 million in savings from mandatory leave without pay, fewer internal service fund transfers and unspecified reorganizations. In Scenarios B and C, she proposes reductions of $29.8 million in savings, substituting unspecified employee concessions for the mandatory furloughs. But since these reductions are not allocated to departments, there is no way to determine–under any of the scenarios–what will be spent on any department, let alone any program.

Furthermore, although much of the city’s discussion of budget problems focuses on the General Purpose Fund (GPF), this is only about 40 percent of the city’s overall budget. If Oaklanders are to understand how the city is setting its priorities, we need to have a clear understanding of spending from all funds; however, in each of the budget documents, all of the savings from either mandatory furloughs or employee concessions are shown as if they were realized from the GPF–many city employees are paid, in whole or in part, from other funds, many of which are restricted. It seems unlikely that the Mayor plans to furlough only employees paid out of the GPF. So this raises yet another question: How can the city plan balance its GPF with either unilateral or negotiated labor savings that, by their nature, are applied across all funds?

Without denigrating the importance of any city department or program, the police and fire departments, museum, library, parks and recreation, human services, public works and community and economic development are most directly involved in providing services to Oaklanders. Of these departments, the only ones whose overall budgeted expenditures in Scenario A (before the unapplied $13 million reduction) are lower than their final budgeted expenditures for the 2010-11 fiscal year are the museum, library and human services. The museum is being turned over to the Oakland Museum Foundation under an agreement reached a year ago, thus funding from the City is being reduced by 100 percent. Library expenditures are being reduced by 83 percent, with the city giving up its Measure O library fund. Human services expenditures are being reduced by 2.1 percent. Budget increases for other departments (before the unallocated reductions) include fire services (4.2 percent), parks and recreation (4.5 percent), public works (1.8 percent) and community and economic development (5.6 percent).

To be fair, the above percentages don’t include the unallocated furloughs and other savings. The budget documents don’t tell us how these reductions will affect individual departments.  But if we proportionately allocate the reductions across all departments, the effect would be as follows:

Police Services


Fire Services






Parks and Recreation


Human Services


Public Works


Community and Economic Development


Also, to be fair, the police department sustained the largest cuts of all at the beginning of the 2010-11 fiscal year when Oakland reduced the department’s administrative costs by over $100,000 and laid off 80 police officers. So the big picture under Scenario “A” is this: over the years 2010-13, the largest cuts are to police and library services.

What city priorities do these cuts reflect? A cynical Oakland resident might well suspect that the cuts have been chosen to get the unions’ attention during negotiations and the public’s attention in a parcel tax election.

Mayor Quan and the administration will no doubt respond that there was simply nowhere else to make the big cuts. Is that true? In the coming days, MOBN! will be posing questions that need to be answered so we can learn what all of our choices are and choose the route that works best for Oakland.

Make Oakland Better Now!

OakTalk Here is the blog of Make Oakland Better Now!, an Oakland community grassroots group of a grass-roots group of voters, volunteers, and policy advocates committed to improving the City of Oakland by focusing on public safety, public works, and responsible budgets. Founded in 2003, we’ve researched, lobbied, and successfully campaigned for a number of new, impactful policies, including the city’s Rainy Day Fund, Measure Z and Operation Ceasefire.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. LoveOakland

    Because some City programs are more dependent on the General Fund (the unrestricted funds that can be used for any city service), the percentages don’t completely reflect the actual service cuts. Further, since all city unions except Police have made concessions, only one department cut is needed to gain that association’s attention.

  2. ed gerber

    The practical effect of 3 budgets and no detail as to the cuts is to create utter confusion. I believe the council should use A as the baseline budget for revenue purposes then the Department budgets and cut whatever it takes to create a balanced budgeted.
    Also in the area of redevelopment there are very unrealistic assumptions about what the state will do. If Jerry Brown prevails there will be huge General Purpose Fund cuts. Even the compromise presented by the Cities would restrict the ability to use redevelopment funds for activities not directly related to redevelopment. Finally go to the city of San Jose and look at the “Fiscal Emergency” proposal presented by Mayor Reed at

  3. Jim Zigenis

    I mentioned in an earlier note how the City uses “Share the Pain” as an extortive device . I have also commented about cock the gun cohesion by cutting loved programs to instill a fervor in the do gooders . Your analysis about the non general funds expenditures is so right on . The City squanders, and misappropriates funds. I.e. measure B , the LADD, the library assessment etc.etc.. The City hides funds in various different POTS of money and shuffles them back and forth. This happens every budget cycle or union contract negotiation time. Any money from the general fund that is replaced by an assessment is taken and directed to feed some other agenda .
    Jim Zigenis

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