Budget Bits Returns: Shaping Oakland’s 2017-2019 Budget

Oakland Budget

Oakland 2017-2019 Budget Preparation Begins

For many years and several budget cycles, Make Oakland Better Now! has provided Oakland residents with tools to help understand the city budget. We’re proud to dive into the numbers again this year, as Oakland’s Mayor, City Administrator, and City Council move toward adoption of the 2017-2019 budget.

In our “Budget Bits” series, we will try to present—as concisely as possible—a guide to the budget process, challenges, priorities, and decisions as they evolve.

It is worth remembering that Oakland’s budget process is guided by a number of transparency policies put in action for the first time by City Council  during the 2015-2017 budget process. (Read more about these policies on our blog.)

Here, in Budget Bit Number 1, is an overview of the budget calendar, as well as important challenges and priorities that have emerged so far. Other posts will follow as we reach the major stepping-stones in the budget process.

Overview

On January 31st the Oakland City Council held a Budget Workshop to begin the almost 6-month process which is scheduled to result in the adoption of the 2017-2019 budget by June 30th. (Find the minutes and full video of this meeting on the city’s website.)

Mayor Libby Schaaf’s presentation to the Council provided an overview of the major challenges facing the budget. These challenges are:

• A structural deficit of $26 million
• A shortfall in other special funds
• Sustainability of City finances related to Long-Term Obligations including pensions and healthcare
• Historical under budgeting of Police overtime
• Dedicated funding for wildfire prevention is exhausted
• Uncertainty of federal grant funds particularly in light of President Trump’s stated hostility to Sanctuary Cities
• Impact of upcoming labor negotiations (except Sworn Personnel)

The budget will also present a major opportunity to begin planning for the expenditure of the bond funds authorized by the passage of Measure KK. These expenditures will be part of the Capital Improvement Program that will be considered and adopted as part of the budget. This measure authorized the issuance of  $600 million in bonds to be allocated for Streets and Sidewalk ($350Million), City Facilities ($150 Million) and Housing ($100 million).

This will be the first opportunity in many years to undertake a significant improvement to City infrastructure and will require detailed oversight by all Oaklanders.

Budget Calendar

January 31, 2017: Special Council Meeting on budget, polling & Mayor/Council Priorities. Council workshop to set priorities on a date to be determined.

February 28: Release of the FY 2016-17 2nd Quarter Revenue & Expenditure Report and Five-Year Forecast.

 March: Presentation of draft Infrastructure working group recommendations to Council.
March 15: Councilmember Expenditure Priorities.

Late April: Release of the Mayor’s Proposed Budget and Factsheet.

May 1 – June 10: Community Budget Forums
May 1: Proposed Capital Improvement Program
May 9: Presentation of Proposed Budget
May 23: Release of the 3rd Quarter Revenue and Expenditure Report
May 30:  Budget Hearing

June: Council Deliberations and Budget Amendments
June 1: Budget Advisory Committee’s Report
June 17: Council President amendments
June 30: Budget Adoption

Oakland Budget

Budget Polling

The first step in the budget process is polling and priority setting. Over a thousand Oakland residents were recently surveyed on a wide variety of budget issues—where and how the city’s budget should be allocated.  If you were in charge of Oakland’s city budget, the survey asked, how much would you spend on public safety, housing, education, job growth? 

The results of the City of Oakland Budget Priorities Survey give valuable insight on how the budget and budget office are viewed by the public and the direction of the upcoming debate over spending. Overall, it showed that “a safe city” was a top priority for Oaklanders in every district.

Budget Priorities
But housing issues – housing costs, affordability, homelessness  – are also a clear leader, with more than one-third (36%) saying that is their top budget issue.
Crime, safety, and law enforcement yielded a second priority, with 23% naming it a top priority. (Read the full report with comprehensive breakdown and analysis of these results here.)

In our next Budget Bits report, we will describe the financial details of the budget in depth.

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