OAKLAND - In what city leaders called the most dire budget shortfall in modern Oakland history, Mayor Jean Quan cast a deciding vote Thursday to pass a budget that will preserve libraries and fire stations while imposing furlough days on most city staffers.
The City Council argued bitterly for several hours, half the members calling for the immediate rehire of 44 police officers and others arguing that the method for making those hires would be unsustainable.
The latter group won out. The council voted 4-4, with Quan coming down in favor of a budget proposal put forward by Council President Larry Reid (East Oakland) and members Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary), Jane Brunner (North Oakland) and Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale).
That budget approves hiring back 22 of the officers laid off one year ago.
A total of 44 officers and cadets remain available for rehire after last year's layoffs, police Chief Anthony Batts said, and the cost of rehiring them is significantly less than training and bringing on new officers. After 22 are rehired, Quan said she hopes to rehire the remaining 22 through grants and other funding sources.
Also in the budget that passed, the funding for Chabot Science Center was largely rescued from threats to cut it entirely.
Meanwhile, Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente, who voted in favor of the budget, railed against the deal with the police union on which many budget assumptions are based.
The deal has already been approved by the council and is currently waiting on a vote from Oakland Police Officer Association members, due to finish July 7.
It includes a long-pursued 9 percent pension contribution from police officers, which now means all city union members are making those kinds of contributions.
But De La Fuente said the deal, which is not public yet, includes a 2 percent raise for officers in 2013 and again in 2014, and allows officers to trade in sick days for vacation days at a two-to-one ratio. They can then use an unlimited number of those vacation days to collect cash from the city if they retire, De La Fuente said.