Mayor Chuck Reed had some grim news for City Council yesterday. “Although this is the ninth year we’ve faced a significant budget shortfall, this year is by far the worst.” He went on to warn that the city’s expenses are expected to exceed its revenues for many years to come. The only solution, he suggested, is to cut services to community centers and libraries, and to reduce pay and/or benefits to municipal employees.
Representatives of the unions bristled at the news. “The proposals are all cookie-cutter,” said Nancy Ostrowski of the city’s Professional and Technical Engineers Union. She was one of the overflow crowd that attended yesterday’s meeting. Linda Dittes of the Municipal Employees Union called on the city to stop outsourcing jobs. All eleven city unions have rejected the Mayor’s suggestion of across-the-board pay cuts for all municipal employees in order to save 500 jobs.
The unions’ rebuttal of the mayor’s proposals drew a mixed response from the crowd, with many residents complaining that the city is at the mercy of the unions. One woman, Susan Bailey, called on the city to eliminate union contracts altogether.
A few hours earlier, the City Council voted 6-3 to suspend the business licensing tax in an effort to keep small businesses in the city. Three councilmembers—Ash Kalra, Kansen Chu, and Nora Campos—opposed the measure arguing that the city could not afford to lose this revenue when its resources are already so stretched. Proponents of the suspension argued that it would not only keep businesses in the city but attract new ones as well.
Mayor Reed promised the attendees that by the end of the process San Jose would have a balanced budget. To do that though means that he has a long, hard fight ahead of him.
Read More at the Mercury News.