SAN JOSE -- Mayor Chuck Reed on Thursday unveiled his recommendations for the last city budget of his tenure, a modest plan to restore the police burglary unit and pave potholes using money from the Silicon Valley building boom with a cautious approach toward seeking new taxes.
The fiscally conservative Democrat's proposed funding plan for the budget year that begins in July follows a similar theme of very slow growth seen in the past two years. Before that, capping a decade of deficits, San Jose leaders three years ago slashed services, laid off city employees and cut pay to close a $115 million shortfall.
"There's not money there to restore all the services to the level that we want," said Reed, who is termed out at the end of 2014 after eight years. But "it's a whole lot better than where we were."
Although the Silicon Valley economy is surging and the city still has many of the cuts from the Great Recession in place, San Jose is staring at an essentially flat overall financial situation this year with similar budgets forecast through the next half-decade.
Reed said that's mainly because retirement costs for city workers in the last decade have more than quadrupled to $300 million in the coming year, eating up an increasingly large chunk of the city's $1 billion general-fund. Much of the savings from pension cuts voters approved in 2012 won't be seen for years as new hires come aboard with less expensive retirement plans.
"There's not really a lot of money in our future," he said.
But critics blame Reed for pushing what they view as a flawed pension reform plan, much of which has been stalled as the city's unions challenge it in court.
"We're going to hear the same platitudes and the same fixes that are not going to amount to much," said Councilman Ash Kalra. "The fiscal reform plan that made so many promises of restoring services has once again proven to be a failure."
In San Jose, the mayor's "March budget message" kicks off a painstaking process in which City Council members submit spending proposals until the council passes a full budget in June.
Reed's proposals, which mostly focus on efficiency over spending, include:
Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at Twitter.com/rosenbergmerc.