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FILE -- Oakland City Council President Jane Brunner unveiled $20 million in budget-balancing measures Wednesday in what she called a "sign of good faith" as city officials hope to renegotiate police and fire contracts in the face of a fiscal crisis. (Lane Hartwell/Staff)
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OAKLAND — City Council President Jane Brunner unveiled $20 million in budget-balancing measures Wednesday in what she called a "sign of good faith" as city officials hope to renegotiate police and fire contracts in the face of a fiscal crisis.

Oakland is facing a $31.5 million budget deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1, and council members and the city administration have said there is no way to balance the budget without new revenue, laying off police officers or securing union givebacks.

"We need a sustainable budget that cuts our administration, our elected officials and every department fairly," Brunner said. "Before I'm willing to cut police and fire in this city, I believe we need to cut all (other) programs to the bone."

The $20 million balancing measures — which range from cutting funding in parks and recreation and information technology to installing 500 new parking meters — are a sign, Brunner said, the city is serious about doing everything it can before asking for the police and fire unions to open their contracts and renegotiate.

Brunner and other city officials met with leaders from both unions Tuesday.

"I think this is a sign of good faith, showing them we are looking at all departments," Brunner said.

Her proposals for filling the gap in the city's $400 million general fund included:

  • Cutting salaries of nonunion employees who earn more than $100,000 by 10 percent.


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  • Reducing hours senior centers are open by 20 percent.

  • Eliminating funding for some non-city programs, including a day laborer program, AIDS prevention efforts and the city's contribution to the Cypress Mandela Training Center.

  • Cutting elected officials' offices by 25 percent and parks and recreation and information technology by 10 percent.

  • Consolidating the city's Neighborhood Services Coordinator program with other city programs — a proposal that is likely to be hotly controversial but that Brunner said would protect the work the Neighborhood Services Coordinators do while improving government efficiency.

    Some of the ideas covered in Brunner's proposals were included in a list of budget-balancing measures proposed by Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Ignacio De La Fuente at an April 29 meeting.

    Brunner said she would take her proposals to other city officials, incorporate their ideas and work toward finding five council votes to pass a budget by the end of the month.

    Paul Rose, a spokesman for Mayor Ron Dellums, who has been ripped by critics for appearing disengaged in the midst of a crisis, said Dellums is "currently reviewing the recommendations and is looking forward to working with the City Council in addressing Oakland's budget deficit."

    Even if all of Brunner's proposals are accepted, the city would still be $11.5 million short of a balanced budget. And the council president suggested the remainder of the gap could be filled by measures that could include concessions from the unions and, possibly, placing a half-cent sales tax on the November ballot.

    Such a measure would require a 50 percent vote compared to the two-thirds vote it would take for passage of a $180-a-year parcel tax proposed by the Dellums administration earlier this year. That proposal seems all but abandoned.

    Brunner, De La Fuente and other council members have called for the police union to agree to pay 9 percent of their salaries into their retirement plans.

    That would be a major giveback for a union that opened a closed contract last year and, according to union figures, agreed to concessions totaling $34.2 million, including $11.4 million in the upcoming year.

    "We haven't had a chance to examine the proposal," said police Sgt. Barry Donelan, vice president of the Oakland Police Officers Association. "We're always willing to talk to the council. I might also point out it's the 2nd of June and the budget is due at the end of the month."

    In negotiations with firefighters, the city does not have the leverage it does with police because a clause in the fire contract protects firefighters hired before July 1, 2009 from being laid off. Police do not have the same protection.

    Brunner said she believes layoffs in the Police Department can be avoided if both unions agree to concessions — a prospect that is far from certain.

    "What both police and fire said (Tuesday) is we need to see a plan before we're willing to sit down and negotiate," said Chuck Garcia, president of Local 55 of the International Association of Firefighters.