Mayor’s Budget Wants to Restore Services with $8 Million Surplus

San Jose's chronically underperforming ambulance contractor may get bumped if the city finds it more cost-effective to have firefighters take over operations. The plan was introduced as part of Mayor Sam Liccardo's first annual budget proposal, which the City Council will discuss next week.

Firefighters are first to respond to medical emergencies, which make up nearly two-thirds of all fire calls, but have to wait on for-profit Rural Metro to show up and drive the patient to the hospital. If San Jose took over its own ambulance services it could possibly drive up revenue for its understaffed Fire Department, allowing the city to cut ties with the financially embattled company.

Liccardo also spells out how he would prefer to spend an $8.6 million surplus—less than 1 percent of the 2015-16 fiscal year budget—on public safety, infrastructure and youth programs. The surplus is the third in the past 14 years in San Jose, which laid off more than a fifth of its workforce in that time. In his five-year forecast, Liccardo predicts modest surpluses for the next several years.

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"This year, we have the good fortune of making spending decisions, rather than budgetary reductions," Liccardo writes in his budget message. "We must remain fiscally prudent, however, and avoid repeating past mistakes as we restore services. As a result of the improving economy and recent fiscal reforms, city revenues and expenditures have come in closer alignment. The margins appear very thin, however, and the city cannot weather a decrease in revenues or undertake substantial new expenditures without substantial cuts elsewhere."

After saving $2.5 million in reserve, the mayor proposes funding to keep all city libraries open six days a week, $1 million for investment in summer jobs for teens and $2 million over two years for after-school programs.

But restoring public safety is the top priority, he said, adding that he wants to settle the city's drawn-out legal fight over pension reforms with its public employee unions. Liccardo proposes adding 26 civilian community services officers to the San Jose Police Department to help sworn staff, adding $5 million for police overtime and one-time funding for body-worn cameras.

In a recent survey, community members also listed public safety as their top concern—actually seven of their top 10 priorities:Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 1.24.41 PM

Other ideas  in the mayor's tentative proposal: incentives to woo manufacturing companies to San Jose, one-time funding for an office of immigration services, partnering with private sector to build micro-cottages for the homeless, add recycled water programs and set aside $50,000 for the July 4 fireworks show in downtown.

The budget will likely set aside money to survey residents about putting a tax-hike on the 2016 ballot to pay for street repairs and public safety.

Under San Jose's budget process, the mayor's budget message provides initial direction while the council and the public develop a final budget due in June.

A public hearing on the mayor's budget message takes place 7pm Monday at City Hall. The council's vote on the proposal is scheduled for 1:30pm Tuesday. After the vote, the city manager will release his own budget review for the council and the public to consider.


  1. An $8.6 million surplus and yet he wants to cut $25-46 million more from employees??? Love how he’s playing with numbers just like our worst mayor in history. Will be interesting to see if he beats out Reed or if he will only be 2nd worst.

  2. manipulation again in the underlying report. The idea of restoring the FD by simply hiring 14 more FFs is pure manipulation. What about the closed stations and reduced equipment at others. What about the lowest ratio of FF to population in the nation for any large city by far? I am sure there are others.

  3. For those of us in the Public Safety Profession here in San Jose, It is just astounding how he can keep saying what he says, and expect everyone to believe it. For everyone here on the board…..he……lying. There is NO WAY San jose can acquire the ambulance service for San Jose only….there are just not enough people. An as for the 14 new Firefighters? Thats IF no one else leaves. The new recruits are already looking.

    • Agreed . It is asinine to think that hiring 14 Firefighters will do anything to help response times . Try reopening the fire stations that were closed down. Try bringing back the Engine and Truck Companies that were eliminated . What was it 5 Fire stations and 9 companies ?? You need to staff those positions before taking over ambulance service is ever even considered.. Lets gets straight folks , the only thing you can do with less , is less ! although current public safety employees are doing the best they can , they are simply being run into the ground(overworked & underpaid). ALL new recruits are actively seeking better employment else where , as they should .

  4. The rookie that was honored by the homicide unit for spotting the murder/carjackers/driveby shooters that occurred last week near almaden and oak and turned into a car chase that led into other cities is leaving the dept to work for another agency. The writing is on the wall… For those still in denial just sit back and watch a free market at work. Sam’s plan isn’t working….. Thank god we will have longer library hours

    • > For those still in denial just sit back and watch a free market at work. Sam’s plan isn’t working…..

      A “negotiation” between a police employer monopolist (“The City”) and police labor monopoly (“SJPOA”) ISN’T a “free market”.


      Bureaucrat A sitting at a table agreeing with Bureaucrat B on how much cops should be paid.

      It’s the Soviet Union all over again.

      If the City and SJPOA negotiated a five-year contract, they could call it a “Five Year Plan”.

      • Simpleton when another employer offers better wages and a disability safety net … That employee chooses to leave and work for the other employer. That would be the result of a free market where cities are lining up to snatch solid workers from a failing employer.

      • Neither the labor market nor the employer in this case are “monopolies” in the sense you mean. The city’s labor force is mobile, and can (and has) gone to other cities to get alternate employment. So the employer, this city’s police force, is not able to monopolize their job options. Also, the labor force cannot monopolize this city’s pool of potential police recruits. The police force has the ability to recruit from other communities, in theory, if the price is right. If you wanted to privatize the police force (to avoid your cooked-up nightmares involving “the Soviet Union”), it would be the same thing. Supply and demand and opportunity costs in a free market. Read Henry Hansmann’s “The Ownership of Enterprise.” The main point is that management of private vs. public enterprise is not as different as some people think. What you mean is that the San Jose police force is the only one serving the city, and is in that sense a “monopoly.” Yes (though the same cannot be said of the San Jose labor force). But police services, like utilities and water, may be a public good and hence a natural monopoly. If not, fine — go ahead and privatize it. But even if privately managed, a police force has to offer the right salaries and benefits to attract a mobile labor force with other options. If it does not, then because it’s a “free market” out there, the labor force will go elsewhere.

        • As you said, “the San Jose police force is the only one serving the city, and is in that sense a “monopoly””.
          No need for quotes on the word VOR. SJPD IS a MONOPOLY- deliberately entrusted with that privilege by the People. Just as is every other police department in the country.
          We grant government organizations (and their employees) the exclusive right to carry out their work without threat of competition even as government organizations tirelessly work to make sure that we in the private sector never gain such an unfair advantage. Is this advantage we give them ever acknowledged? Or appreciated? Nope. Just exploited.
          Whatever beliefs individual policemen or firemen might have are inconsequential politically and are overwhelmed by the collective view as expressed by their unions. And the unions’ influence is decidedly liberal.
          Police and fire are legitimate government responsibilities and deserve to be generously compensated. Unfortunately though, public safety has been influential in defining the rules of government employment that has made public service so attractive to legions of ninnies and has led to an explosion in the size and cost of government in general.
          Bottom line though, it’s We The Idiot People that allow it to go on.

          • The reason we give them exclusive rights to do their work w/o competition is that competition and private enterprise do not really make sense for a public good like law enforcement. You hear someone breaking into your house and call 911, only to be given a set of choices for which private police force to employ? And then you answer a customer survey while you wait for the operator? Pretty soon, you will be praying for the legislature to regulate what these private police forces must and must not do. And if they are heavily regulated, are they really private or are they government-controlled?

  5. The budget projections show the weakness of San Jose’s tax base. Too many years of bad planning decisions have left San Jose unable to grow its revenue even during this boom. What happens when the inevitable slow down comes? Lay off a few more police officers and firefighters?

  6. STEVE0,

    Those years may constitute bad planning as defined by the best interests of this city, but they were good planning years for those eager to stay in office and/or move up the food chain by buying votes, not to mention those looking to pad their pockets and those of their rich benefactors.

    The honest people of this city haven’t just been ill-served; they’ve been sold out.

  7. I dunno Steveo. Evidently the tax base is just fine. We’ve got plenty of money to build cottages for the homeless and a new center to help people from foreign countries.

  8. The average SJ citizen spends $140 a year whereas the other local city residents i.e. santa clara, sunnyvale and palo also etc spend anywhere from $250 and past $300 a year…. San Jose is and always will be a bedroom community. Heart of Silicon Valley LOL !!!! The majority vacate the city during the day to work in other cities and spend money … Hey maybe we can rebuild the downtown shopping pavilion.. If we build it they will come……

    • The average SJ citizen spends $140 a year whereas the other local city residents i.e. santa clara, sunnyvale and palo also etc spend anywhere from $250 and past $300 a year…

      They need to build jobs here, right next to where we live. If every districts retail areas had a lunchtime crowd we’d match those other cities easily.

      • So if thats the case, why arent we hammering Matt Mahood and the “Hood-Rats” at the Chamber of Commerce? These are the clowns thinking its a great idea to cut pensions, salaries and benefits of the Firefighters and Police Officers. Where is THEIR accountability in all of this? Where is that “vibrant” down town we have been promised for the last 6 years?

        • If I had to guess, it’s because they’re only looking out for the short term, as have many many many others over the years, going all the way back to Hammond. KB homes comes knocking, tells you, “We’ll give you a 0% loan with no downpayment if you approve more housing” and that’s the end of it. They get a nice new house as cheap as rent, we get screwed.

        • The last SIX years, BOHICA? Many say that the promise of a vibrant 24 hour downtown SJ started when Tom McEnery became Mayor in 1983. Others would argue the promise began in 1979 when Jim Leininger joined Frank Taylor’s RDA. Over 30 years later and the only part of SJ that is vibrant is San Pedro Square; and we all know who owns that square block.

          • You are correct. I owned a house in SJ in the 80’s. Even 30 plus years ago, I remember neighborhood services being cut, with the money going to downtown. It was sold to the neighborhoods as an investment that would pay dividends with more money for the neighborhoods. This was the start of the entertainment zone downtown, which downtown has never recovered from to this day. We hear the same today – that if we only put enough money into downtown, it will eventually reach a critical mass of people. The only folks that benefited are the movers and shakers, not your average citizen. This will not change.

  9. No one else wants to say it, this mayor should show his respect and appreciation of our Public safety personnel by announcing a reasonable fix to their dismantled pension fund. Instead the city farted away how many hundreds of thousands of dollars to train PO’s just to have them taken from our streets before they even stepped foot on them? Our tax dollars paid for their training, so the recruiting city saved all that time and money, clever, sneaky, dirty play. Isnt that the definition of stealing? Yes, make the city more lucrative for the employees to want to stay, DUH, BUT DONT be so ignorant and naïve to train new ones for some T.O. from another city that is employed at the SJPD CJTC to sneak offers to them that obviously show much better benefits etc. Right under our noses, there is another avenue of pursuit and re-imbursement that should be contemplated and discussed or more importantly pursued. SAY IT AGAIN: Fix our PO’s pension funds would be a big step in showing appreciation and respect for their services, otherwise the mayor is just blowing smoke. Lead by example and authority of good faith, then maybe no other PO will have to lay his or her life down due to all the elements that lead up to such a tragedy.

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