For the second consecutive year in a decade, the city appears ready to adopt a budget without service reductions and layoffs and a greater focus on restoring public safety cuts.
The $2.6 billion 2013-14 budget proposal going before the City Council Tuesday—and for a final public hearing next Monday night—would restore some public safety cutbacks, including salary and new hires, and set aside cash for ongoing litigation against Measure B pension reforms.
Mayor Chuck Reed announced these priorities in his budget proposal in March, and City Manager Debra Figone echoed these goals in her budget message released in early May.
Councilmembers submitted their own budget requests to the record, ranging from creating expense accounts for city employees who use public transit (Johnny Khamis), to providing housing to the homeless (Sam Liccardo), to giving $60,000 to the San Jose Parks Foundation (Ash Kalra) and installing surveillance cameras to deter taggers. Reed also picked one of Liccardo’s proposals to spend $250,000 on grants to fill empty storefronts.
Other suggestions include forming a summer swimming program (Rose Herrera), funding summer recreation events for kids in the Frank McKinley School District (Madison Nguyen) and paying $1.5 million over two years for traffic calming (Don Rocha). Councilman Pete Constant offered to give his district’s $38,000 funding allocation to fund services to fight domestic violence.
Some last-minute memos added to the agenda include some by Kalra and Campos, who are asking for $32,000 for paratransit, Rocha for $250,000 to help the city’s corner stores sell more fresh produce and Kalra, Chu and Campos want $234,000 for more code enforcement officers.
But the biggest focus remains on restoring public safety and making current staff more efficient until the city can afford to hire more.
From 2002 to last year, San Jose was forced to lay off 2,000 people and slash pay by 10 percent for others. Mayor Reed attributed these actions to soaring retirement costs, which, city staff says, rose from $73 million to $245 in the span of a decade. In his June message, Mayor Reed says this is why there are fewer cops on the streets today despite upping the San Jose Police Department budget by $100 million during that time.
“It’s no secret that crime is on everyone’s mind right now,” Liccardo says, alluding to the city’s recent spate of homicides—23 since January. “But we have limited capacity to train and get officers out on the street. So, simply throwing more money on expanding the department won’t get us more officers. The key is to take a sensible approach in trying to accelerate the training process and boosting pay to promote retention of the officers for serving today.”
Basically, Liccardo says the city needs to make things more effective and efficient, using predictive analytics in addition to hiring new officers, which the city did with its first academy in years this spring.
Overall, the budget looks a little better compared to a couple years ago, when the General Fund saw a shortfall of $115 million, which led the mayor to declare a fiscal emergency.
Reed proposes the following to beef up law enforcement in the coming-year budget:
• Allocate more cash to train and recruit police officers (60 per each upcoming academy class).
• Make 21 new non-sworn community officer positions to help with non-emergencies, field crime reports and free up sworn officers to deal with more serious crimes.
• Use $4 million to pay for police overtime until enough new officers are hired and trained.
• Put $3 million over the next couple years toward gang prevention and partially restore school truancy enforcement.
• Open the new-but-empty police substation in south San Jose.
• Keep 49 firefighters whose salaries until now were subsidized with federal grants.
• Form a Homeless Response Team that includes four park rangers to deal with the city’s encampments.
Even though things are looking up compared to these past several years, the city should exercise caution, Reed says, especially since the city faces several lawsuits blocking retirement reforms.
“While we’ve made tremendous progress in putting our city back on a sustainable path, we still have a long way to go in order to restore services to the level that our residents deserve,” Reed says.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for June 11, 2013:
• Testing soil safety at the Coleman Soccer Fields will cost the city $450,000 by the time construction ends next year, according to a change order the council will consider Tuesday. The agreement is with a company called URS Corporation.
• The San Jose State University Spartan Café wants to expand its coffee shop and storefront by 420 square feet at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library in downtown.
• Downtown landowners owe the neighborhood’s Property-Based Improvement District $2.2 million this year, but the organization expects some to default on those payments. The district pays for enhanced city services, like beautification, more signs and banners, cleaner sidewalks and public events to drum up business. The city’s share of the upcoming assessment will be about $400,000. The district will present its annual report to the council Tuesday.
• The city plans to pay $164,000 to add six elevators to the parking garage at Fourth and San Fernando streets.
• An ordinance amending the city charter to allow the Tier-2 pension plan—where new hires contribute more and the city gives less, to cut down on retirement costs—goes before the council for approval.
• A business tax amnesty for landlords and the self-employed will likely get a third extension. The amnesty offers business property owners a chance to pay up without penalty.
• Your library parcel taxes may go up a little, by 2.45 percent, if this resolution goes through. The increase evens out to about 74 cents per parcel and will pay for improved services and maintenance. The tax, which sunsets after a decade in 2015, provides 16 percent of the library system’s operating budget and 45 percent of its capital budget.
• Despite protests that customers who conserve water shouldn’t be punished by a rate increase, the city’s poised to up the water rate by 8 percent for the San Jose Municipal Water System, which services 115,000 people in the city’s northern neighborhoods.
Though customers overall have improved conservation, unseasonably warm winter weather led to higher-than-normal water usage, so the city exceeded its budget by $750,000 when buying water from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The average monthly water bill after the increase will be less than $55.
• A $1.43 million affordable housing loan the city granted through its now-defunct Redevelopment Agency (RDA) will get transferred to the RDA Successor Agency to pay down bond debt.
• A $2.86 million street repaving project is going before the council for approval.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260