San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo released his proposed 2017-18 budget earlier this spring. Now it’s time for the public to weigh in.
The first of four community meetings on the spending plan takes place Monday, with three more set for May 17, 18 and the 22 in different parts of the city. Feedback from those meetings will help the city fine-tune its $3 billion annual budget, which comes up for a final vote toward the end of June.
Liccardo’s cautiously optimistic outline projects a $12.4 million gap in the coming year that will need to be bridged with new revenue or spending cuts. Looking out to 2022, that projection grows to $88.9 million. That’s despite two new tax measures approved by voters in 2016 for transportation upgrades and essential city services.
Those figures don’t even account for the city’s $3.8 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $1.5 billion in deferred infrastructure maintenance. Liccardo has pointed out that San Francisco, Oakland and other big cities face similar challenges.
Driving the deficit in San Jose, according to the mayor, are growing pension costs and declining revenue from sales and construction taxes. However, the mayor’s projects do not account for the impending sales of the Hayes Mansion, a $36 million judgment against the federal government or savings from bond refinancing.
Liccardo pointed to important milestones in the past year, which helped the city climb out of a protracted recovery from the Great Recession. Voters approved Measure F, which replaced the city’s pension framework and will save an estimated $42 million a year. The city also allocated more money to reduce emergency response times, shelter the homeless and repave old roads.
The mayor notes that his latest spending blueprint will continue to prioritize what residents say are their highest priorities: public safety, long-term financial stability, housing the homeless and repairing roads. Here’s a cursory look at some of Liccardo’s ideas, which will ultimately come to a vote by the City Council.
- Hire more police. A pay bump and the Measure F pension settlement have already helped recruiting efforts. After years of grappling with a shortfall of officers, the San Jose Police Department is working on rebuilding its ranks.
- Prep for disasters. The city’s alarming response—or lack thereof—to the Coyote Creek flood this year prompted the mayor to include plans to fund a new warning system, volunteer training and recovery efforts.
- #BeautifySJ. Drawing on an idea brought by residents, city officials aim to bolster a recently launched program that leverages volunteers, technology and offers grants to eliminate blight.
- Revitalized roadways. Since every $1 invested in preventive road repairs saves up to $5 in future fixes, the mayor says, he wants to increase the street pavement allocation to $50 million. That should cover about 200 miles of road in the coming year.
- Fill vacant positions. The mayor wants the city to fill 850 unstaffed positions as quickly as possible, which might be tricky with budget deficits on the horizon. But, he said, building up staffing capacity is ”the most immediate way to improve service delivery.”
To read the mayor’s entire budget plan, click here. Be sure to take a look at the five-year forecast on which he based his projections and the city’s proposed capital budget—found here and here, respectively. Times and locations for the upcoming community budget meetings are posted below.