City Manager’s Budget for 2013-14 Hedges on Pension Reform Lawsuits

City Manager Debra Figone released her 2013-14 budget proposal, balanced, she says, through fiscal reforms, layoffs and switching to cheaper retiree healthcare. Still, the city remains in “a fragile situation,” partly because of litigation it faces over Measure B pension reforms.

The $2.6 billion proposal falls about 5 percent short of the current-year budget to make room for mid-year budget adjustments. Figone says her plan aims to reinstate services lost to previous cuts and steadily build up the city’s reserves to brace for expected shortfalls in coming years. Her two–year approach suggests putting aside $13.7 million into a rainy day fund and figuring out how to make service delivery more time- and cost-efficient.

Since San Jose’s tied up in lawsuits with Measure B and Santa Clara County over Redevelopment Agency money, Figone recommends setting aside another $33.5 million for “potential negative outcome of litigation.”

“We’ve balanced our budget through strategic fiscal reform, modest increases in revenues from a stronger economy, and the very careful management of expenses,” Figone says in a statement. “With the improved forecast this year, this budget that holds the line with a limited number of additions to meet critical needs, and it allows for small potential increases in employee compensation.”

It took some give-and-take to allow for those pay bumps, she notes.

“These increases have been made possible, however, because we reduced or eliminated certain significant costs, including the new lower cost plan for retiree healthcare and the elimination of the Supplemental Retirement Benefit Reserve,” Figone says. “If not for these changes, we would not have the resources available to consider these additions to our budget. We’re still in a fragile situation.”

Despite the modest raises Figone proposes, she expects the city will have to layoff or re-assign some staffers. The overall staffing level would increase by 129 positions, though, to a total 5,651 employees, the proposal states. That’s 24 percent less than the city’s peak staffing level 13 years ago.

The new hires would include 21 community service officers in the police department to take over some technical and admin work like interviewing witnesses, snapping pictures of crime scenes, jotting down telephone reports, fingerprinting and collecting evidence.

More budget proposal highlights include:

• Open the new-but-empty south city police substation.

• Allocate $8.6 million to upgrade systems at police office and communications buildings.

• Create an $11.1 million employee compensation reserve to start restoring pay cuts and regain the city’s reputation as a competitive employer.

• Improve service, including $3.3 million to deal with homeless encampments over the next couple years.

Figone’s proposal comes a little more than a month after Mayor Chuck Reed released his own budget plan. Reed’s plan echoed Figone’s cautious optimism, saying the city’s situation is improving, but that rising retiree pension and healthcare costs jeopardize the city’s future financial standing.

Residents still have a chance to weigh in on the budget. A series of public meetings will be held through May 28. The City Council is scheduled to adopt a final budget on June 18.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

9 Comments

  1. Figone recommends setting aside another $33.5 million for “potential negative outcome of litigation.”

    Just set aside the money Deb. Measure B will be set aside. I guess at some point, someone will have to be the one to say, “We told you so.”

  2. ——“33.5 million on potential negative outcome of litigation.”

    Ms. Figone, you had best come up with better numbers as the longer you prolong the agony of fighting a battle you cannot win, the worse its going to get.  You are playing games with taxpayer’s monies, dear Lady.  Rick Doyle, Mayor “whats his name,” and you need to huddle up——invite the Wolfe family, Pete and the card club stooges and realistically figure a way out of this city’s financial woes, before they get worse.  Incredible, that this City is hitting the million population mark, and we have such incompetant people dictating policy.I am embarrassed to claim San Jose as a home. 

    Figone brags about going after new police hires by
    reducing their incomes, benefits and pensions. She further trims retiree medical plans.  Did I miss something or did she purposely leave out the increase in pay that She and others (mayor whack job & council creeps) stand to gain? 

    Hidden agenda or by design???  What became of the tons of money earmarked for the A’s stadium?  Since mayor whack threatened the baseball commissioner with litigation, is there money earmarked for that?  Also, what happened to the part about gang prevention?  We have a gang war going on in modern day San Jose, Ms Figone….  Please tell us how much money you plan to “GIVE” community based organizations (feel good – do little organizations), to get them off your back.  Pity that anyone in “the know” has the knowledge that no gang prevention program will succeed without intervention and suppression components to support it. I’m fairly certain Figone knows this but is trying to lead the citizenry down the path of how great a job she and “whack job” are doing.
      And you folks thought this was going to be a positive story by Ms Figone……….

  3. The City would have already been saving millions if Mayor Reed would have not been so rigid and obstinate, and instead listened to reasoned voices. Ironically, this Mayor is costing this City tens of millions of dollars in lost savings, but nobody in his inner circle is willing to call him on it. He seemingly gets a free pass from most of the city council, as well as his mouthpiece, the editorial board and renowned journalists at the esteemed San Jose Mercury News.

    • Kalra is the ONLY council member who had the guts to stand up and call him on it. He has told reed, from the get go that the measure was illegal and that it would cost the City millions in litigation only to be back at square one when they lose. reed won’t listen to anyone. He didn’t listen when he was told NOT to use the $650 million figure, and he used it anyway. Look at the mess he has made. He is an idiot. The City is using all of this taxpayer money because of a stubborn, arrogant, hard-headed mayor who will not say he is wrong, no matter what. Get him out of there and bring in someone who knows how to interface with employees. Garbage in garbage out. What a stiff, sad person.

  4. That’s a beautiful photo of a billion dollar City Hall that was built when the old one worked just fine and was abandoned.

  5. A few decades ago, due to a reckless roll of the financial dice, the city lost sixty million of the taxpayers’ dollars. It was a major crisis, one that resulted in decreases in public services and employee compensation.

    A few years ago, due to a reckless sense of its own omnipotence, the city lost even more millions in a lawsuit settlement with the county. The true cost of the settlement is incalculable due to the suspect valuations of the property surrendered and the perpetual costs associated with the services-sucking slum neighborhoods the city was coerced into annexing.

    And now, due to the reckless belief that duplicitous politics trumps law, the mayor and his gullible flock of council sheep have taken the city to the precipice of its greatest disaster. $33.5 million? Mere spin—a modest amount for public consumption, but one that represents only the first gasp uttered in what will be a very long and painful ordeal. For that which has been destroyed—a police department that delivered topnotch law enforcement at bargain prices, the trust and loyalty of its workforce, will cost a fortune and much more than a decade to even begin to replace.

    All these disasters share this in common: they were the work of our city leaders. There was no unavoidable force operating here, no hurricane or earthquake. These are not the regrettable mistakes of governance, nor the inevitable errors that come with the responsible meeting of new challenges. In each and every case this city ignored the warnings of experts and the lessons of history, and pushed the resources and welfare of this city into peril. We are all the worse for their stupidity.

    Out the delusions born of peace and prosperity, local voters have conjured up their own natural disaster.

    • It is absolutely amazing to me , That most residents either dont care or are more than content to drink “Mayor Reed’s Kool Aid.  San Jose residents should start educating themselves . I truely believe that residents would be shocked to see/hear how much money San Jose wastes on Lawsuits every year . I say “waste” because san Jose LOSES the majority of these lawsuits .

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