Oakland Local

Bay Area

Oakland City Council Passes Budget, Saves City's Arts Grant Program

Jennifer Inez Ward/Oakland Local

SEIU protestors attended the city council meeting.

With a state deadline only hours away, Oakland city council approved a new amended budget Tuesday night that plugs the $28 million deficit brought about by the dissolution of the city's redevelopment agency.

Children's Fairyland, the Oakland Zoo and Peralta Hacienda will keep their funding after Council rejected Mayor Jean Quan's proposal to cut their subsidies by 40 percent in an effort to balance the budget.

Neighborhood Service Coordinators and the 211 Call Center for the city also will keep their funds, along with the city's arts grant program. The new budget also gives a two-week transition period for laid off employees. A minimum of 81 city staffers are expected to be cut.

The state of California set today - Feb. 1 - as the deadline for filing a balanced city budget.

In contrast to the first special City Council meeting on adopting a new budget, Tuesday's gathering was mostly muted. The Council chambers were packed with SEIU-represented city workers and supporters of Occupy Oakland. In addition, a PBS documentary film crew was on hand to record the meeting.

This Council meeting also featured a new formula for filling in the city's financial deficit, developed by Councilmembers Ignacio De La Fuente, Jane Brunner, Desley Brooks and Libby Schaaf. Several policy directives are a part of that plan, including one that calls for cuts in Public Works to come from management and not service staff.

The new amended budget also includes a reduction in funds for the Neighborhood Watch Program. Library services, Head Start and senior services have been spared from reduction.

Sworn police and city firefighters also are left unscathed as a result of a clause in their contracts. Each city department is expected to cut 5 percent from their budget. New revenue plans for the city's budget include selling the former Champion Street Fire Station and using funds from a settlement with Alta Bates Summit.

In late June, Gov. Jerry Brown signed state legislation that essentially abolished municipal redevelopment agencies in California. The state plans to use the money - $1.7 billion the first year and $400 million annually after that - to pay for education and other programs. The shake up to the city's budget began with a California Supreme Court ruling in late December that upheld the state's decision to eliminate its 400 redevelopment agencies.

Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana responded by immediately tightening the City Hall budget and issuing layoff notices to nearly all staff - 2,500. Quan and Santana then followed up by rolling out a comprehensive budget proposal that they presented to City Council last week. While there will be scores of staff layoffs, there also will be a serious shake up of departments in City Hall.

The Community and Economic Development Agency will be dissolved and broken up into four different divisions. About 44 positions are proposed to be eliminated from CEDA. A 40 percent subsidy for the Jack London Aquatic Center also will be eliminated.

Reconfiguration of city services also include decentralizing and changing the Parking Division and consolidating the Office of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Human Services. The Public Ethics Commission and the Citizens' Police Review Board will not merge, which was proposed in the mayor's amended budget.

The most recent Occupy Oakland action was heavily discussed by public speakers at the Tuesday meeting. While there were speakers who complained about tactics used by the movement, others complained about the aggressive tactics of the Oakland Police Department.

The city's redevelopment agency will be dissolved today, Feb. 1, and layoffs will take effect on Feb. 3.

Source: Oakland Local []

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