Emergency funding measure may be needed By Stephen L. Hollister
On June 7th, San Leandro was forced to make $6.9 million in cuts to every department due to Sacramento money grabs and the ongoing recession. State raids have taken $7 million in local funds—impacting the city’s ability to stimulate economic growth and maintain services.
As the community is aware, the recession has resulted in deep budget cuts in essential local services and public schools in many communities. The state has another $20 billion deficit that must be addressed, and San Leandro’s local revenues will continue to be at risk of state raids.
With local revenues down $11.6 million over the last four years, the City has had to cut critical services, including public safety. These budget cuts translate directly into reductions in police protection, fire prevention, library hours and programs, city street repairs, youth and senior programs, and park maintenance.
The city has done everything possible to save money and reduce spending. Over the last two years the city has reduced service staff by almost 20 percent, or 95 full time positions, frozen most employee salaries, implemented a two-tier retirement system, furloughed most employees, closed city offices once a month, and used much of the city’s emergency reserves to cover the deficit.
Even with current budget cuts, we are faced with making even more cuts to fill the city’s remaining $3 million hole. If additional revenue is not identified in the next six months, eight more police officers will need to be eliminated, and in July 2011, a fire ladder truck and nine firefighters must be removed from service. These cuts could increase 9-1-1 emergency response times. While the city and residents have prioritized public safety services, police and fire protection make up over 60 percent of our budget, and we cannot avoid more cuts to public safety. Deep reductions to street repairs, libraries, senior programs, and youth recreation will also need to be made.
The city has been working with residents and a Citizens Budget Task Force to identify priorities for services, and we thank the Task Force members and the more than 1,000 citizens who gave us their feedback. We have relied on this community input to develop the current budget and priorities for the future. Unfortunately without additional revenue, the city cannot provide the level of services residents identified as priorities, including public safety.
Although the city must continue to cut costs, the Council may consider a San Leandro temporary emergency funding measure to protect and maintain essential services. If enacted by voters, this temporary funding would be locally controlled for local services and could not be taken away by the State. Funds would be subject to a citizen’s oversight committee and annual independent audits. For more information, please visit the City’s website www.SanLeandro.org.
Stephen L. Hollister is the city manager of San Leandro.