(This is a post in our Budget Bits series, following Oakland’s mid-cycle budget policy and process. Read our previous updates here and here.)
The Oakland City Budget is now in the process of being reviewed by the Council. At a special meeting on June 10th, the Council will receive the recommended changes to the proposed Budget from Council President Rebecca Kaplan. It will also receive the recommendations from the Budget Advisory Commission.
Oakland is facing significant budget challenges and pressures. With the long and short term in mind, we reviewed the Mayor’s proposed budget, the priorities and adjustments. Our key findings and recommendations our outlined below.
For years, we have recommended and supported major changes to the Police Department. It is important to support Ceasefire, the accountability programs instituted by the Monitor, and the Police Commission. The Proposed Budget does this and we fully support it. The Budget also includes $475,000 for the ShotSpotter program, which we support.
Parks and Street Lights
The Landscape and Lighting District (LLAD) was created 30 years ago to fund lighting and parks, but it did not include an inflation factor. As a result, these services are woefully underfunded. The budget has a one-time, fix which we support. But we strongly recommend the Council take steps to place a measure on the March Primary Ballot (yes, it’s in March) to fix this problem.
The Proposed budget adds 11 new positions to the Fire Prevention Bureau – covered by fees – to modernize and augment Fire Inspections, Vegetation Management, and Fire Plan Check reviews, and meet the Bureau’s operational needs to improve public safety outcomes. It also invests $1.1 million in one-time funding each year for Wildfire Prevention (total of $2.2 million) and authorizes $100,000 each year ($200,000 total) for implementation of the City’s Vegetation Management Plan. MOBN! supports this proposal and also recommends the Council consider re-submitting the lapsed tax funding for wildfire services.
The Proposed Budget provides $12 million in grant funding for numerous homeless services, in the second year it adds $3.8 million from the newly established Vacancy Tax, and adds staff for the newly created (by Measure W) Commission on Homelessness. It is also expected these funds will be augmented by new appropriations from the state.
MOBN! supports this budget item and further recommends that the County of Alameda become a more active and cooperative participant in addressing homelessness. We also support the creation of a new position, a person who would oversee all of the services that Oakland provides to the homeless, and who would work with the State and County to coordinate efforts and funding.
As a result of the passage of Measure KK, which MOBN! strongly supported, the budget contains $110.6 million for transportation related infrastructure, including$75.8 for street paving and $30 million for affordable and transitional housing. This is in addition to $32.68 million authorized in the 2017-19 adopted budget. MOBN! supports these actions.
The Budget makes continued progress on financial stability by reducing the use of one-time revenues for ongoing expenses and continues paying down negative fund balances pursuant to Council approved policies. MOBN supports this action.
The Proposed budget also implements the Administration proposed and Council approved plan to create long-term funding for the underfunded Other Public Employee Benefits (OPEB) program, which funds healthcare benefits for retired employees. This is a great first step, but the Administration and Council must continue to review and seek solutions to the ever-increasing pension obligation of PERS. No clear solution has been identified except for the potential revenues Split Role Initiative, which is now scheduled for the 2020 General Election ballot. We will have more on this as the policy develops.
We urge all members of MOBN! and interested Oaklanders to weigh in on the 2019-21 Budget! Hearings are scheduled on June 10th, June 18th, and if needed, June 25th. Make sure you’re represented in this process.