Oakland’s Budget Process: Happy Days Are Not Here Again

The Mayor and Administration are expected to release a proposed city budget between April 15 and 20 and present it to council on April 30. After that, the budget will be considered by council at special meetings (all at 6:30 p.m.) on Thursday, May 23, Thursday, June 6 and (for final adoption) Thursday, June 27. This is the second in a series by Make Oakland Better Now! on Oakland’s budget challenges.

Make Oakland Better Now! began analyzing Oakland’s budget in 2009. Soon after that, we publicly stated that our city faced a 2010-11 structural deficit as high as $48 million, including negative fund balances, un-funded liabilities, and deferred capital repairs. We predicted that deficit would climb to $155 million by 2013-14. Before we published this view, we presented it privately with a number of elected officials, whose reactions ranged from surprise to agreement to adamant denial.

Starting last fall, the City Administrator began publishing thoughtful, reasoned reports stating that, considering negative fund balances, un-funded liabilities, deferred capital repairs and other deferred expenditures, the City’s annual structural deficit ranged from $155 million to $159 million over the next five years. This reality check / breath of fresh air is refreshing and encouraging: the first step to solving your problems is accurately identifying them.