Category Archives: City Administrator

Budget Bits No. 6: Budget Advisory Committee Has Suggestions for a Better City Budget

This is the sixth installment in our series on the 2015-17 budget process. Council will be considering the Mayor’s budget, the Council President’s proposed changes, and other changes offered by Council members on Monday, June 22 at 5:00 p.m. and Tuesday, June 30 at 5:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall. This Budget Bit summarizes the Budget Advisory Committee’s views.  Next, we will provide a comparison of the Mayor’s and City Council President’s proposals. 

Oakland’s Budget Advisory Committee presented its report to the City Council on June 8th. BAC correctly reported that there were many features in the Mayor’s budget of both a fiscal and procedural nature that were improvements over prior years. The major improvements included public safety funding, recognition of debt and long term fiscal problems, an attempt to take salary disputes out of the budget process, increasing public engagement and improving fiscal transparency.

However, BAC also called for improvements in this, or future budgets, including the following:

  • Survey: Funding a more robust professional survey to reach all Oakland Residents not just voters.
  • Revenues: Improving the discussion of the critical importance of revenues. Revenue presentations are often presented in summary charts with a limited discussion of the underlying basis for the estimates. BAC believes the budget process would be improved by much greater attention paid to explaining and understanding the current and potential sources of revenue in our City.
  •  More Metrics on Outcomes. BAC believes that the entire budget process would be greatly strengthened if it contained metrics for each of the City Departments and their principal operating units indicating a) measurable activities and accomplishments in the prior budget and b) anticipated outcomes for the proposed budget. A clear description of activities and outcomes would provide needed information for the Mayor in preparing the proposed budget, the Council in evaluating it, and the public in understanding the accomplishments of our City government.
  • More Context. This budget states that it maintains service levels, but is that in comparison to the previous biennial budget or other benchmark?  What were service levels before the great recession?  A generation ago?   The public would benefit from like comparative analytics to better understand what the historic service levels were – not just comparing money spent, but other metrics as well, perhaps full time equivalent employees, percent of budget, and, most importantly, what did the public receive?
  • More Trend Data. While Revenue and Expenditure summary tables in the Financial Summaries (starting on page E-65 and E-91, respectively) show four years of data (prior year actuals, current year budget, and the two years of the proposed budget), Departmental Summaries do not show prior year actual financial data. BAC believes the City should consider showing this information at the departmental level so the public can compare spending within departments to past trends.
  • More Percentage Comparisons Include year-over-year percent changes in charts. To enhance the value of the trend data presented in revenue and expenditure Financial Summaries, consider including the percentage increase or decrease for each line item and the totals from the current year budget to the first year of the proposed budget and from the first year of the proposed budget to the second year.
  • Departmental Summaries The departmental summaries do not show prior year actual financial data. Consider showing this information at the Departmental level so the public can compare spending within departments to past trends.
  • Easier Navigation. A budget document is a very large set of information to read and process. The public is greatly aided by a Table of Contents that is comprehensive and designed to help readers locate information. The use of a letter-number system for paginating the document hinders readers’ ability to quickly assess how far into the document a particular section is as listed in the table of contents (example: how far into the document is page E-89?). Consider using a standard pagination format that starts with the number 1 and proceeds upwards from there until the end of the document. Especially as more of the public switches to reading documents on-line, being able to enter a page number from the Table of Contents into a page finder is helpful, and also helps readers who still use printed documents. PDF files should not be scanned documents which cannot be searched.
  • Complete Payroll Cost Information. Include information on the city’s total payroll. The budget includes this information for the general purpose fund (which is only about half of budget expenditures) but not for the whole budget.
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Make Oakland Better Now! Looks At Two Proposed Amendments to the Mayor’s Budget – Part 2

Make Oakland Better Now! will be present at the next Oakland City Council Meeting on June 13th at 6:30pm to urge the City Council to adopt the Mayor’s proposed budget with Council President Kernighan’s proposed changes.  This post is the second in a series to look at the budget amendments proposed by Council President Kernighan and those proposed by Council Members Brooks, Reid and Gallo.  More information can be found in the Oakland Tribune’s Coverage, here, and Chip Johnson’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle, here (paywall).  We encourage all Oaklanders to join us at council in urging your representatives to adopt a budget reflecting the city’s need for public safety and fiscal responsibility.

Make Oakland Better Now! was set to publish a post today that costed out the City Council President’s proposed budget amendments (we’ve been calling the proposal “APB1”) and the proposed amendments to the budget by Council Members Brooks, Reid and Gallo (“APB2”).  We had reached the conclusion that APB2 would result in a city budget out of balance by millions of dollars.

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Will the Mayor’s Proposed Budget Rebuild Oakland’s Police Department?

On Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Church, 114 Montecito, Make Oakland Better Now! will sponsor a public forum, “Can Oakland Afford to Be Safe?,” featuring Chief of Police Howard Jordan, City Administrator Deanna Santana and key staff members to discuss the connection between Oakland’s budget challenges and the need to rebuild the Oakland Police Department. All concerned Oaklanders are urged to attend. Meanwhile, we are beginning our analysis of the mayor’s proposed policy budget and its impact on public safety.

Make Oakland Better Now! is in the process of analyzing the mayor’s proposed policy budget that was released on Wednesday. One element struck us immediately. While this is the first proposed budget to include police academies in years, we question whether those academies will result in the sworn officer increases the mayor has announced. We are concerned that because Oakland needs at least 900 officers, if not more, the goal she posted are being moved and not in the right direction.
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City to Consider Mid-Cycle Budget Adjustments. Here’s What MOBN! Thinks.

Like most cities, Oakland operates on a two-year budget cycle, adopted to cover two fiscal years running from July 1 through June 30 two years later.  The current cycle runs through June of 2013, which means we are half way through it.

As is typical, the city is about to start looking at its fiscal performance to date and changes in its projections in order to determine what changes should be made in the second year of the budget.  Council will begin considering mid-cycle adjustments on Monday, June 4 at 6:30 p.m. The agenda is here.

The reports containing the City Administrator’s and Mayor’s recommendations are here and here.  For the first time in recent memory, there are no recommended layoffs, closures or reductions of city services.  While there are budget overruns (the largest is in the OPD — either $8.6 million or $9.6 million), there are also some positive revenue developments.

The Administration’s proposal addresses a number of important issues MOBN! has been stressing for quite some time:  increased civilianization of police department functions,  increased police academies, and possibly  a new approach to NSA compliance.  The Administration also indicates it has looked seriously at the Los Angeles Police Department (as MOBN! did here) and hopes to bring in a civilian inspector general, which LAPD has had for more than ten years.

The administration is also recommending implementation of an “unanticipated expenditures fund,” which looks like the first, small step toward a rainy day fund, a practice MOBN! and the City’s Budget Advisory Committee have long advocated.

We have a number of questions about some issues, including the City’s use of one-time sources of income to counter unexpected expenses, the potential shrinkage of its reserve and the reasons for a number of the budget overruns.  We have raised these in our letter to Mayor Quan, City Administrator Santana and the City Council, which is available here (full text also available after the jump).  We will also plan to present those questions at the meeting Monday night and future meetings considering these changes.

To read the full text of our letter, click “Continue Reading,” below.

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