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Friday, June 7, 2013

San Leandro Approves First Two-Year Budget

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | For the first time in its history, the San Leandro City Council unanimously passed a two-year budget this week forecasting a $124.7 million budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The city expects using general fund reserves to close deficits over the next two years.

The multi-year budget approved Monday uses reserves of $1.4 million in fiscal year 2013-14 followed by $2 million in 2014-15 when San Leandro’s total budget is expected to increase to $126.5 million.

Biennial budgeting had been a campaign platform three years ago for Mayor Stephen Cassidy as a way for the city to avoid unexpected changes in its economic future.

The city’s budget is a living document, said Cassidy. “It’s good for today. It’s good for tomorrow, but I don’t know about next week.” The economy is improving, he added and "that bodes well for our city.”

However, the pension-conscious mayor says, while a structural deficit has been taken care of in this budget, “it’s still lurking in the background.” San Leandro has $118 million in unfunded liabilities, according to the budget document.

Zapata similarly characterized the budget as a “Rubik’s Cube,” able to be tweaked along in subsequent months and years if circumstances change.

“This current budget keeps our service levels at the levels they are,” said Zapata, adding he does not anticipate cuts in the near future as opposed to what he called a “rough ride” for the city during the past recession.

Over the years highlighted by the Great Recession, San Leandro has not faced some of the more excruciating cuts neighboring cities have endured, at least, not all at once. The city was one of the more forward-thinking cities in Alameda County, making deep staffing cuts and reducing some services before the economy bottomed-out in late 2008.

San Leandro was able to stave off cuts, in part, due to an additional $4.3 million in sales tax derived from Measure Z, the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2010. The measure, though, is only temporary and sunsets in 2018.

The budget also includes a $1 million annual subsidy for three years to help San Leandro Hospital, nominal funding for fixing its woeful roads and increased payments to its pension obligations to Alameda County firefighters.

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