Thursday, April 30, 2015

Schaaf’s proposed budget includes creation of Department of Transportation

OAKLAND | BUDGET | Mayor Libby Schaaf hopes to close projected $18 million budget shortfalls over the next two years without many cuts to city services and staff, while also beginning to pay down unfunded liabilities.

The two-year budget proposal released Thursday by Schaaf’s office also hopes to allocate funding for 40 new police officers next year with a long-term goal of reaching 800 sworn officers by 2018.

The $2.4 billion two-year budget presented by Schaaf will rely on cost-savings along with a bid to improve the city’s collection of taxes and fees from the city’s landlords. Oakland’s inability, for instance, to secure millions in fire inspection fees owed to it was noted last year in an Alameda County grand jury report.

But, if a city’s budget is based on its values, Schaaf’s proposal suggests helping the resurgent city transform its character without pushing out its existing core residents is a top priority.

Among the city departments slated to receive increased funding for new employees is planning and the Housing Assist Center and Rent Adjustment Program.

Schaaf’s focus on Oakland’s aging infrastructure with the creation of a new Department of Transportation will surely be a main topic of debate as the Oakland City Council begins budget deliberations beginning next week through the month of June. Under Schaaf’s plan, employees for the new department will be cobbled together from existing staff.

Notably, another proposed city department received short shrift in the budget plan. Councilmember Desley Brooks’ proposed Department of Race and Equity is referenced in the budget, but no funding is allocated to the plan, which a city staff report, estimated to cost around $500,000 a year to staff.

Instead, Schaaf seeks to allocate $150,000 for creating a Race and Equity Initiative and other aspects of Brooks’ proposal, but without the infrastructure of city bureaucracy.

Earlier this month, Brooks chose to withdraw the proposed new department out of an Oakland City Council committee hearing and, instead, debate its merits during the budget meeting throughout May.

Schaaf is scheduled to formally offer the City Council her proposed budget on May 5. Approval by the City Council must occur before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.


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