OAKLAND -- With council members set to begin working on a budget that promises two more years of austerity, Oakland workers rallied Tuesday accusing city leaders of crying poverty and earmarking any available funds for police.
"I can't give no more; the well has run dry," union leader Renee Sykes told an audience of more than 100 city workers outside City Hall.
The city's three top nonpublic safety unions are up for new contracts this year. After five years of concessions that averaged about 10 percent of pay per year, union members said it's time for the city to give ground. They chanted "Enough is enough," and filled much of the council chambers Tuesday evening as council members were expected later in the night to outline their top budget priorities.
Mayor Jean Quan won't release a proposed two-year budget until later this month. But city forecasts have tempered hopes for both employee raises and a boost to the police department.
While tax revenue is on the rise and projected to continue climbing, expenses are climbing faster, according to city estimates.
Pension costs are expected to increase $14 million next year. Within five years, the city estimates having to pay an additional $48 million to fund employee pensions.
Additionally, many of the concessions made by employees since the 2008 financial collapse, including furlough days and salary reductions, will soon expire, adding more than $30 million in expenses over the next two years.
"We have a huge funding deficit coming up," Councilwoman Libby Schaaf said before Tuesday's meeting.
City projections show Oakland with a $50 million shortfall by 2015 if it goes ahead with holding two police academies per year over the next two years. The academies would boost the city's undermanned police force from 649 officers to 737.
Even if Oakland holds just one academy -- resulting in the department shrinking to 617 officers due to retirements and resignations -- the city would still be facing a $28 million shortfall by 2015.
Those estimates assume that voters won't renew Measure Y next year, a tax on properties and parking fees that provides about $20 million a year for public safety and violence prevention programs.
Union officials said the city's forecasts are too conservative and don't take into account recent jumps in revenue from property taxes and sales or the city's budget reserve.
City officials note that Oakland is still liable for more than $1.4 billion in pension and medical benefits for retired workers that it has not been adequately funding.
Oakland's financial struggles have persisted despite cutting one-fifth of its workforce since 2007. The police force saw its numbers drop 27 percent from a high of 837 officers to a low of 611 before a new academy graduated earlier this month.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.