OAKLAND — Mayor Ron Dellums has proposed shutting down City Hall for 12 days in the next year to help fill a projected $15.39 million city budget deficit.
Police and fire services would not be affected. But the closure of most city operations on days following city holidays would save $4.4 million in the 2008-09 fiscal year. Dellums' shutdown proposal would be combined with spending cuts of about 3 percent to all city agencies and departments, freezing open positions and smaller adjustments to fill the $15.39 million hole.
The mayor's package will go before the City Council at a 5 p.m. meeting today at 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza as the council faces a June 30 deadline to amend a two-year spending plan it approved last summer.
The proposals avoid layoffs and cutbacks of essential services, said David Chai, Dellums' chief of staff.
"There wasn't a scenario that didn't have some difficulties in terms of sacrifices we have to make," Chai said. "But in the end, it's clear that the mayor did not want to lay off workers and did not want to (cut) the critical services this city provides."
Dellums and council members alike have said public safety will remain a top priority. At the meeting today, the council will consider a $587,601 program under which the district attorney's office would "deputize" attorneys in City Attorney John Russo's office to prosecute misdemeanors.
Dellums released his budget proposal after telling council members the week of May 12 that he needed more time to put together his package. Both Chai and City Administrator Deborah Edgerly described the 12-day shutdown as one of the least painful options the city had.
Edgerly said the city took a similar course when faced with a pinch about five years ago and that an arbitrator sided with the city about the Service Employees International Union's objections. But Dwight McElroy, vice president of the Oakland chapter of SEIU Local 1021, said the union would oppose the idea.
"I'm sure that we're not going to be accepting of it," he said.
He said Local 1021 would like the chance to offer "concrete, positive input" on ways to fix the budget problems.
"We're kind of sorry that the mayor has not really looked at other alternatives," he said. "When you do such a thing, it has major impacts on city services."
Besides police and fire operations, Edgerly said other essential services such as Head Start programs would remain unaffected. But thousands of employees would not be paid for the 12 days City Hall would be closed.
The city's annual general fund budget is about $475 million. This year's budget woes are due largely to the drop in real-estate transfer taxes, with projections down $25.72 million compared with last year.
City number-crunchers did get a bit of good news last week when residents passed an increase to the Landscaping and Lighting Assessment District, a vote that could relieve the general fund spending by as much as $9.8 million.
The $15.39 million projection still might be on the bright side, however, in part because it is still not known how big a hit the city will take when the state passes its budget. Councilmember Jean Quan (Montclair-Laurel), head of the council's finance committee, expects the city will take a hit of between $2 million and $5 million once a state spending plan is adopted.
Council President Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale), who suggested at a previous budget meeting that city staff members' projections seemed sunny, said he would look at "the entire proposal" and make decisions to keep basic services unharmed.
Asked about the possibility of a 12-day shutdown, he said, "It's one of the options, no question about it. "... I think the mayor has the responsibility and we have the responsibility to balance this budget. I have no problem with any proposal on the table, to tell you the truth."
Quan said, "You either have to do layoffs or you have to do something" like shutdowns.
"The question is whether that's going to be enough or whether we're going to have to do other things too," she said.
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