Council members aren't quite as bullish about Oakland's rebounding finances as Mayor Jean Quan.
In their first opportunity to discuss Quan's proposed budget amendments, several council members on Monday evening questioned whether the mayor was moving too fast in proposing to add 13 positions. Meanwhile, union leaders said newfound revenue should go toward lessening the concessions city employees made a year ago.
"The city should be giving back," SEIU member Shirnell Smith said. "Make us whole again."
This is the first time in four years that Oakland isn't contemplating cuts and layoffs during the June budget season. Better-than-expected revenue, along with employee concessions and savings from a city reorganization, has left Oakland with a $400 million operating budget that is in the black -- and has left council members in the unusual position of deciding how to allocate the available funds.
There is general council support for many aspects of Quan's budget, which includes a second police academy in January, civilianizing the police department's Office of Inspector General and studying more opportunities to civilianize police administration jobs to save money and put more officers on patrol.
The new academy is needed just to maintain the current level of police staffing at 650 officers -- down from 837 three years ago -- amid persistent retirements and transfers.
But council members were concerned that Quan might be acting too quickly in her plan to add 13 positions given the tough economic times and the fact that the city's budgetary reserve fund could plummet from $48 million to $25 million if the state successfully reverses the city's questionable sale of the Kaiser Convention Center last year.
"Maybe we're moving too fast to hire people," Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente said.
Councilmember Jane Brunner questioned Quan's proposal for additional economic development staffers and proposed reducing one or two scheduled furlough days, drawing cheers from union members.
The council is scheduled to discuss Quan's budget proposal again on June 18 and approve an amended budget on June 28.
Quan told the council that even if the Kaiser sale was reversed, Oakland would still have its largest budget reserve in more than five years and that several of the newly funded jobs could help the city generate additional revenue.
"I'm asking you to invest in economic development," she said. "I think it will pay off."
Contact Matthew Artz t 510-208-6345.