OAKLAND — Mayor Ron Dellums called on City Council members to permanently ditch their discretionary "pay-go" accounts Tuesday, as officials here continue to grapple with an estimated $83 million general fund budget deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Dellums also requested that some funding be restored for his office.
His remarks Tuesday came hours before the council continued its budget talks and were his first public comments since a group of four council members offered a host of proposed changes to a budget he unveiled in May. The proposed changes included suspending the pay-go accounts for a year and slashing about a third of the mayor's staff.
Council members were not planning a vote on a full budget package Tuesday evening, but held open the possibility of directing the city to send notices to employees who are likely to be laid off. No action had been taken as of 9 p.m.
Dellums said Tuesday the council should go a step beyond suspending the $125,000-a-year pay-go accounts and ditch them for good.
"I personally think we've got to end the practice of pay-go, and just move on," he said. "I don't think it is good public policy."
Pay-go funds are often used for capital improvements in council districts, but critics see them as little more than slush funds. Dellums said their use "perpetuates parochialism" in Oakland.
City Council President Jane Brunner (North Oakland) said she disagreed
"I'm of the opposite position," Brunner said. "I represent a district "... where we have very little redevelopment money. The only way to any capital improvement is through pay-go money."
Brunner joined Councilmembers Jean Quan (Montclair-Laurel), Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale) and Patricia Kernighan (Grand Lake-Chinatown) in putting forward the proposed changes to Dellums' budget last week. Brunner, Quan and De La Fuente seemed open to the possibility of restoring some funding to Dellums' office after Dellums said he would forfeit his future pay-go as well as his existing balance of $294,446, including $44,446 in general fund money.
Dellums said a 20 percent cut to his staff would be fair, whereas the four council members proposed cutting $800,000 from his staff's budget, which could mean a loss of five people in the mayor's 15-person office. The mayor also said he will take a voluntary 10 percent cut to his $183,397 salary in the upcoming year. He said in May he was planning on taking a lump sum 5 percent salary reduction in the current year, but he has not yet taken the cut, his office said.