Mayor’s budget emphasizes cleaner streets in Berkeley and climate equity
Berkeley’s homeless settlements and the neighborhoods around them are set to see cleanups every two weeks over the next fiscal year under the mayor’s proposed budget, which was just released on Monday.
The recommendation is part of a $ 2 million program presented by Mayor Jesse Arreguín as part of an effort to eliminate the council’s $ 10 million requests to determine the most urgent needs. In addition to $ 500,000 for homeless cleanup, the package includes $ 600,000 to fund a climate equity program for low-income residents; $ 200,000 in planning work designed to revive the Berkeley Civic Center; $ 150,000 to improve road safety around Cragmont Elementary School; and $ 100,000 for a new Ambassador focused on Willard Park.
See the entire proposed budget for FY22 (some things have changed since posting)
The mayor’s proposals are just a small part of the city’s overall $ 600 million budget for the next fiscal year (FY22), which begins July 1. The Council is expected to adopt the FY22 budget on Tuesday evening.
About two-thirds of the budget is made up of income related to grants, special funds, bonds and other sources, while more than one-third, the general fund of $ 220 million, is made up of taxes collected on property transfers, utilities, business licenses. , sales and soft drink taxes, and more. The bulk of the general fund – nearly 70% of it – is spent on staff costs, leaving around $ 70 million in program costs and other non-staff needs.
On Monday morning, the mayor presented his recommendations to his colleagues from the Budget & Finance sub-committee, who agreed to hold another Zoom meeting, Tuesday at 10:30 am, before the final council vote. Councilmembers Lori Droste and Kate Harrison, the other two members of the subcommittee, said they appreciated having more time to digest the mayor’s proposal before voting on a recommendation to give the full board Tuesday evening.
Download the mayor’s budget worksheet as an Excel file
Ahead of this week, City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley presented her FY22 budget proposal, totaling approximately $ 28 million in needs, including $ 2 million for the city’s pension fund; over $ 2 million in IT costs, including enhanced cybersecurity for teleworkers; and more than $ 2 million to begin replenishing municipal budget reserves, which have been partially drawn down over the past year to help Berkeley stay afloat amid COVID-19.
Williams-Ridley has also proposed adding more than $ 2 million to the city attorney’s office budget due to the anticipated court settlement costs and the fees of outside attorneys the city has hired to process a number of these. case.
This year’s budget proposals also include approximately $ 15 million in Measure P spending for homeless services and programs, including $ 5 million for Project welcome key, a state program to help local jurisdictions purchase hotels and motels; $ 2.4 million in estimated costs to take people to hospital when they are in a mental health crisis; $ 1.6 million in housing subsidies and other supports to prevent people from losing their homes in the first place; and $ 1.5 million for the Pathways Center on Second Street.
The Berkeley Police Department’s $ 73 million budget has been a major concern this year following City Council’s commitment last year to reinvent the police.
In light of these ongoing police reform efforts, the council voted last year to maintain 23 vacant officer positions and seven civilian positions at the BPD. The city plans to keep these vacancies in FY22 for a savings of $ 6.6 million that will be used to balance the budget and pay for programs, including $ 150,000 in anti-bias training for police officers. , $ 40,000 in open data portal improvements, $ 35,000 in awareness for the new Police Responsibility Council and more.
The city manager also proposed spending $ 7 million in federal funds for a new specialized care unit that would respond to people in crisis instead of the police. She also suggested giving the police $ 400,000 to hire two crime analysts and $ 600,000 to develop a more data-driven police unit, in addition to regular patrol operations, to tackle problems. more targeted crime in the city.
CopWatch and other community members continued to speak out at budget meetings over the past month to urge the city to speed up reform efforts by more aggressively cutting the police budget and investing in alternatives.
Officials said they are sticking to commitments they made last year to redesign policing in Berkeley, but have to wait until the community’s recommendations are completed – which is expected to happen later. this year – before deciding what kinds of broader changes might be possible.
Throughout the budget process in June, officials expressed appreciation for the nearly $ 70 million Berkeley is expected to receive over the next two years from the US federal bailout. The city is also expected to get around $ 20 million in transfer tax revenue from the sale of properties over the past year, which officials say will help fund more programs during the budget review in November. .
Watch the council’s working session on Berkeley’s unfunded needs
Because of that income, as well as the reservations Berkeley had in place before the COVID-19 hit, officials and staff said the city is now in a better place than many other jurisdictions. But the long-term horizon is not without major challenges: For the first time this year, staff reported that Berkeley has more than $ 1 billion in unfunded infrastructure needs and a “significant retirement commitment.” which is expected to increase due to recent financial losses suffered by CalPERS.
In March, staff provided a 62-page overview of these two commitments, writing that “City pension contributions for all City employees are expected to increase by more than $ 40 million over the next ten years, straining resources and services ”.