OAKLAND -- Mayor Jean Quan painted a gloomy picture Friday as she unveiled three two-year budget scenarios to deal with a looming $58 million deficit next year, and an even higher shortfall the following year.
Quan's worst-case budget calls for the closure of all but four library branches, severely curtailed hours at senior centers and the elimination of 368 full-time positions from a workforce that numbers about 4,000. The least painful and most optimistic scenario depends on passage of a parcel tax and healthy pension contributions by all employees -- and still slashes 80 full-time positions.
Quan called it "one of the saddest and toughest days I've had in 20 years of public service."
The deficit is in the city's General Fund, which represents about 42 percent of Oakland's $1 billion annual budget and pays for basic services such as police, fire, libraries and recreation programs. The rest of the city's budget comes from bonds, grants and fees and cannot be used to pay for basic services.
Quan said that each elected office is asked to reduce its budget by 15 percent and employee unions are being asked to contribute between 10 and 15 percent to their pension costs. Negotiations with all five employee unions are ongoing. City Administrator P. Lamont Ewell said he has not been part of the negotiations, but expected that with the budget due for adoption June 21, everyone will know soon enough how successful those negotiations have been.
Quan also said that they are making a renewed appeal to the City Council to approve a parcel tax for a vote by mail ballot. Although it would not happen soon enough to prevent some cuts in July and August, if the measure is approved, those cuts could be rolled back.
All three scenarios assume that property tax revenues will remain relatively flat and that each elected office will reduce its budget by 15 percent. Each plan involves significant organizational changes to consolidate, transfer, and in some cases, close departments and facilities. None of the proposals calls for any additional police layoffs.
Quan said that in crafting her proposals she sought to be fair and "have a sense of shared sacrifices" among all departments.
"We're asking everyone to give something," she said.
The worst-case budget plan, which Quan said is not likely to happen, assumes that there is no new parcel tax or voluntary pension contributions from employees. The plan pays for 640 police officers next year and 600 the following year and budgets for a police academy in year two. The plan would:
The midlevel budget plan assumes additional income derived by pension contributions of 10 percent to 15 percent from all employees, but no new parcel tax. It pays for 640 police officers next year and 600 the following year, and includes funding for a police academy in year two. The plan would:
The best-case budget scenario, if one could call it that, assumes the city will bring in additional income from a new parcel tax and contributions of 10 percent to 15 percent from all employees. There are no additional cuts to senior centers, libraries, fire stations, arts and cultural programs or the Film Office. It pays for 650 police officers both years and includes funding for police academies both years. The plan would:
Ewell said the budget proposals are "grounded in reality" and designed to eliminate structural deficits and put the city on a more stable financial footing.
"The last thing we want to do is get into midyear and have to make adjustments," he said.
Quan said that she plans to bring back an additional 20 of the 80 police officers who were laid off last summer, mainly to make up for the losses in staffing due to attrition. An average of five officers retire or leave for reasons every month, she said.
She half-joked that Ewell had to "hold a gun" to her head to get her to publish a budget that guts libraries, which are near and dear to her heart.
"I am not giving up on (the libraries)," she said. "I'm fighting like hell to get the parcel tax."
The City Council will hear a presentation on the mayor's budget proposals at a special meeting Thursday.
Contact Cecily Burt at 510-208-6441. Follow her on Twitter.com/csburt.