For the past six years, Make Oakland Better Now! has aimed to provide citizens with information about the Oakland budget process. Budgets reflect government priorities, and we think that fact makes them pretty important. With the first public budget hearing tomorrow, we begin our posting about the process today.
As most people who follow Oakland government know, Oakland enacts city budgets in odd-numbered years for two fiscal year periods. As the next fiscal year starts on July 1, 2015, the process of developing the 2015-2017 city budget has already started in the City Administrator’s office, and public hearings need to start now. In fact, the first public hearing is tomorrow, Wednesday, January 28 at 9:00 a.m. at a special city council meeting at City Hall. (Also available live at KTOP, Comcast Channel 10 / ATT U-Verse Channel 99, or streaming on line here.) This will be the start of a five-month process.
In 2013, Oakland’s City Council enacted an ordinance establishing procedures for its budgeting process, and last month, this was made a part of Oakland’s new Consolidated Fiscal Policy, which combined a variety of previously passed ordinances relating to reserves, a “rainy day fund,” use of one time sources of revenue and other budget policy matters. Part of this policy ordinance sets out a timeline for the budget process, and based on the timeline, the Budget Office is proposing the following schedule:
- January 2015 – Council Meeting on budget priorities
- Feb 24, 2015 – Release of Public Poll on Budget Priorities
- February 24, 2015 – Release of the FY 2014-15 2nd Quarter R&E [Revenue and Expenditure] Report and Five-Year Forecast
- March 15, 2015 – Statement of Councilmember Priorities
- April 15, 2015 – CAO [City Administrator’s Office] Budget Outlook Message & Calendar Report
- Late April 2015 – Release of the Mayor’s Proposed Budget and Fact sheet
- May 1 to June 10, 2015 – Community Budget Forums
- May 26, 2015 – Release of the 3rd Quarter R&E Report
- June 1- Budget Advisory Committee’s Report
- June 2015 – Council Deliberations, Budget Amendments, and Budget Adoption by June 30th
Budget debates are always volatile, and there is no reason to think this will be otherwise. Every city union contract other than Firefighters expires June 30. The mayor has promised to increase the size of the police department, department attrition seems to be on the rise (and it costs about $100,000 to recruit and train each new officer), and there are a significant number of current or upcoming expenditure increases over which the city will have no control. Among these are:
Escalating retirement costs ($13.4M), Grant expirations for police ($8.4M), Match for new COPS grant ($2.5M), Public Ethics Measure ($0.6M), Fire contract cost increases ($1.7M), Minimum wage measure ($0.3M), Technology – Radio financing ($2.7M) Technology — IT internal service fund ($9M) Affordable Housing Trust Fund ($4M)
Oaklanders who follow budget matters also know that Oakland has a General Purpose Fund, comprising slightly less than half the city’s budgeted revenue and expenditures, and a large number of other funds, use of most of which are restricted. The budget office’s preliminary baseline for the General Purpose Fund and for all funds shows significant deficits, even before anything is added:
Long story short: before the city even gets to questions of what more needs to be done and how to do it, and before it addresses its backlog of road repairs, building and other infrastructure repairs and unfunded or underfunded benefits, Oakland faces a deficit for the coming fiscal year of about $51 million.
The only report posted for this meeting is a short memo with a Power Point presentation, available here.
MOBN! will be closely following and writing about this entire process as it develops, as the Council and Mayor express their priorities, and as those priorities are translated into dollars and cents.