OAKLAND — When members of Oakland's City Council voted June 30 on drastic spending cuts to fill a projected $83 million deficit, they acknowledged they probably would have to make even more reductions in the near future.
They were right.
Projections now are showing an $18.7 million general fund budget deficit for the current year, leaving officials scrounging for places to save money in a city that has been hit with budget cuts over and over again the past 13 months. The council will address the budget at a special 5 p.m. session today, though it doesn't seem likely everything will be solved in one sitting.
"These are going to be the really hard decisions," said council President Jane Brunner (North Oakland). "I think we'll end up making some cuts because the sooner we make decisions, the fewer people we have to lay off."
City staff members have presented the council with a host of potential cuts — some proposed by City Administrator Dan Lindheim's office, some directly from city departments, and some that were considered by the council in June but ultimately rejected. In total, the proposals would slash an additional 49 jobs, 36 of which are filled.
The council likely won't accept all of the proposals, and some — such as the idea to slash four neighborhood services coordinators from the Police Department or cut the Main Library's days of operation from seven to five — already have drawn opposition
Patrick Camacho, head of the Save the Libraries advocacy group, said, "If we close the door to "... new opportunities, we will make it more difficult for us to ever appreciate or reach a level of literacy that is required to make Oakland a better city."
As it is, Oakland's branch libraries already are open five days a week after the June cuts. Only the Main Library stays open seven days a week.
Another proposal drawing scrutiny is the idea of closing the San Antonio Recreation Center.
If closed, the center would be leased out, presumably to an organization that would provide a similar type of programming. Some remain skeptical.
"I will definitely oppose cutting the recreation programs at San Antonio Park, because there are a huge number of children in that neighborhood, and a lot of them take advantage of the programs there," said Councilmember Patricia Kernighan (Grand Lake-Chinatown), whose district includes the center. "I would have to see a whole lot more analysis to convince me that some kind of change is warranted."
Other proposals before the council include eliminating 12 tree-trimming and gardening jobs; eliminating the city's two park ranger positions; and cutting the budget for Police Department overtime spending to $5.5 million — almost $10 million less than what was budgeted last year.
The council voted June 30 to make nearly $90 million worth of budget adjustments as general fund revenues were projected at $414 million and expenditures at $497 million.
Even with about $6.6 million of surplus built into the budget, Oakland now finds itself dealing with a deficit in part because the city will receive less than one-third of what it originally hoped for in a federal Community Oriented Policing Services grant. That takes away $11.3 million in funding the city had counted on.
Another portion of the deficit stems from the need to identify where $11.9 million in council-approved general fund cuts to the Police Department will come from.
Finally, the city's budget office is recommending the city set aside $2.1 million this year for possible repayment to the voter-approved Measure Y fund after the city was successfully sued for misuse of Measure Y money. Oakland still is weighing its appeal options in that case.
It remains to be seen whether the city will move to lay off police officers. The Oakland Police Officers Association began voting last week on contract concessions that could save the city as much $42 million over the next four years — and would make balancing this year's budget much easier and probably protect jobs within the department. Voting on the contract ends this morning.
"It's up to the members now to decide which way they want to go," said Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, the union's president.
Reach Kelly Rayburn at 510-208-6435.
5 p.m. today