Tag Archives: Berkeley city budget

Op-ed: The decay of Berkeley’s infrastructure

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On May 12, the city of Berkeley’s budget manager, Teresa Berkeley-Simmons, will present to city council the proposed spending over the next five years for capital improvements. This includes money to be spent on sidewalks, streets, parks, storm drains, sewers, and transportation such as bike improvement projects.

Between 2016 and 2020, Berkeley plans to decrease its spending on infrastructure by 43% from approximately $36 million to $20 million, a reduction of $15 million.

This cut is despite an acknowledgment by Christine Daniel, the city manager, that “Berkeley is an aging city and thus its infrastructure faces challenges that other younger cities do not.” … Continue reading »

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Nonprofit accuses city of Berkeley of ‘unethical contracting practices’ for new homeless center

Berkeley's new approach to homeless services. Image: City of Berkeley
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The city of Berkeley says it will change its commission recommendation process after a community agency brought allegations of serious conflicts of interest during a recent bid for municipal funding.

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) raised these concerns in an April 16 letter to city officials after bidding to run a new one-stop homelessness services center for which the city plans to issue a contract next month.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

BOSS and one other agency, the Berkeley Food and Housing Project (BFHP), put in bids in December to run the new center. Both service organizations are based in Berkeley, and have worked in the city since the early 1970s. BOSS requested $450,145 to run the center, and the BFHP requested $996,899 for the job. The city’s Homelessness Commission and city manager have recommended that the contract go to the BFHP, and council is slated to make its decision next month.

The commission report said only that the BOSS application did “not contain all of the necessary functions” required by the city in its request for proposals.

BOSS challenged the commission recommendation in April, saying two Homeless Commission members affiliated with the BFHP and another group, YEAH, should not have taken part in the discussions. BOSS wrote that their “organizations will gain financial resources as a result of their participation in the funding discussions and eventual funding recommendations” made by the commission and the city. … Continue reading »

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Local man pushes for better restrooms at Berkeley park

Berkeley resident Martin Nicolaus has been petitioning for cleaner, more permanent restrooms in Cesar Chavez Park since this March. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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For years, Berkeley resident Martin Nicolaus has been coming out to César Chávez Park to admire its natural beauty and take photographs — a collection of which he published in a book last December.

But over the past four months, Nicolaus, who is arguably the park’s number one fan, has been engaged in a more earnest mission: to persuade the city to install cleaner, permanent restrooms in Berkeley’s largest park.

A Berkeley resident since 1992, Nicolaus sets up his base-camp by the two portable bathrooms by the park’s entrance on Spinnaker Way to collect signatures and video-interview park users on their experiences using the toilets. He said over the past decade he has often seen the portable toilets in near-unusable condition, and has been frustrated by the lack of action to improve them. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Down the garden path with Berkeley City Council

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“The City’s budget is a reflection of City policies, goals, and priorities. The budget process assigns resources to address the goals, objectives, and community priorities set by the City Council.” Christine Daniels, City Manager

When the parks tax (Measure F) was passed by an overwhelming majority last fall, most residents probably assumed that the revenue raised would go toward finally fixing the dilapidated state of the city’s parks. After all, all the city council members were firmly on board … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Berkeley needs a better parks, facilities plan

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Berkeley has been ambitious in trying to make our city as beautiful and livable as possible. We have 52 parks, five community centers, 38 picnic areas, three camps, two pools, a marina, and 95 facilities (aka buildings). And that’s only a partial list.

That’s wonderful for a city our size. But… we don’t have the money to maintain it all. That became clear at a March 24 workshop for the City Council where the Parks, Recreation & Waterfront and Public … Continue reading »

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Berkeley to spend millions to fix up James Kenney Park

James Kenney is set for major improvements. Photo: City of Berkeley
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James Kenney Park in West Berkeley is slated for major repairs in the coming fiscal years, which will likely require closure of parts of its community center for 6-8 months, according to city staff.

Staff provided an update regarding municipal park projects to the Berkeley City Council at a March 24 worksession.

That update included some news about Berkeley’s Tuolumne Camp, which was destroyed by fire in 2013, as well as an overview of park facility plans over the next two fiscal years, from July 2015 through June 2017. (An update on the camp was published separately on Berkeleyside.)

Read more about Berkeley parks.

The city plans to spend most of its capital money for parks through fiscal year 2016-17 on pressing needs at James Kenney Park, at 1720 Eighth St. between Virginia and Delaware streets. The city plans to spend more than $3.7 million to address building repairs and seismic issues at the community center, as well as updates to the picnic and play areas. Staff intends to use $2.3 million from the parks tax and general fund on the repairs, as well as nearly $730,000 from a FEMA grant for seismic improvements, and $750,000 in Measure WW funds to pay for other aspects of the projects. … Continue reading »

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Government

Berkeley may double Public Works budget, as $16 million repair backlog looms

1947 Center St. Photo: City of Berkeley
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Later this year, the Berkeley City Council will consider whether to more than double the public works department budget to help address a maintenance backlog of nearly $16.4 million.

The department is responsible for more than 50 buildings, many of which need significant improvements, according to information presented in late March at a council worksession.

The department currently has an annual capital budget of $900,000, and has been putting off maintenance needs because there hasn’t been a plan in place about how to proceed, or money to do the repairs.

Of the current budget, $500,000 goes toward urgent building needs, $100,000 to ADA upgrades and $300,000 to deferred maintenance projects. And chipping away at the $16.4 million maintenance backlog $300,000 at a time has not been working, staff said.

On March 24, council received a proposed five-year plan from the department about how to get going on the work. Under the proposal, the department’s annual budget would increase to $2 million. That money would come, if approved by council in the next few months, from projected increases in real estate transfer taxes the city expects to collect this year, officials said.

“During the past 25 years, the City has deferred maintenance on many City facilities, decreasing the value of these assets, and diminishing the utility of the buildings for City programs,” according to the staff report.  … Continue reading »

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Government

Berkeley animal shelter budget raises questions

The animal shelter's grand opening celebration takes place at 1 Bolivar Drive on Saturday. Scroll to the bottom of the story for details. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Community supporters of Berkeley’s municipal animal shelter have been raising alarm bells about the shelter’s budget for the coming fiscal year — and their concerns about the city’s lack of budgeting transparency are broadly shared.

The proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts in July is $1.69 million, which is comparable to what the shelter ultimately got in the fiscal year that ends this month, City Manager Christine Daniel told city officials by email May 27.

But shelter supporters say that amount has not been enough to cover operating costs, and fear the shelter may be forced to close one day a week or more as a result. They say the shelter has struggled to cover increased utility costs in its new, larger space, which has a sophisticated air filtration system to cut down on the spread of diseases. Supporters say, too, that services the city used to pay for, including a spay-and-neuter program for low-income residents as well as training for pit bull owners, now must be funded through community donations.

The budget has come before council and the public several times since May 20, and is expected to be approved next week.

According to city spokesman Matthai Chakko, a detailed budget that would show utility costs for the Dona Spring Municipal Animal Shelter is not available: “The budget doesn’t have line items to that degree,” he said via email. Chakko said animal shelter director Kate O’Connor was not available last week for an interview. He said the shelter is “fully funded,” but did not respond to questions about whether the shelter might have to reduce its hours. (The facility is currently open seven days a week.)

The lack of transparency has been a bone of contention for shelter supporters, particularly those who worked to help build the new shelter and fund some of its services. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Police beats could get much bigger

he city is looking at this 11-beat alternative map for Berkeley Police, along with two other options. Adjustments will continue to be made over the next month in response to public feedback, officials say. Graphic: Matrix Consulting Group
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A handful of community members got a preview Tuesday night of three possible alternatives for a new Berkeley Police beat map, which ultimately will determine how officers are deployed around the city. Bigger beats and the potential creation of a small “flex unit” to address hot spots or crime trends are among the ideas under consideration, which are still in draft form.

Citing tight budgets and limited staffing, police undertook an analysis of several new ways to assign officers around town. The city of Berkeley, working with Mountain View-based Matrix Consulting Group, has been collecting input about police services via an online survey and, starting this week, in open meetings.

(Upcoming sessions with the consultant, police staff and council members are planned for Thursday, May 15, and June 4, with several others still to be scheduled.) … Continue reading »

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2 meetings this week on Berkeley police beat changes

The Berkeley Police Department has used the same beat map since 1993, and the city is looking into how to adjust it. (Click to view larger.) Image: Berkeley Police
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Three council members are holding meetings this week to collect public feedback about proposed police beat changes in Berkeley.

Given current staffing levels, which are at historic lows, police are looking at whether to make beats larger or to have some beats that are staffed less often. Berkeleyside wrote about the proposal in depth in March.

The city has hired Mountain View-based Matrix Consulting Group to help oversee the public process and create a strategy for police staffing going forward.

As part of that process, which will include Berkeley City Council review in coming months, council members have been asked to hold meetings in their districts to explain the process and hear from the community. Two of those meetings — for residents of districts 2, 5 and 6 — have been scheduled for this week. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley asks public for help to create new police beats

The Berkeley Police Department has used the same beat map since 1993, and the city is looking into how to adjust it. (Click to view larger.) Image: Berkeley Police
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The Berkeley Police Department is asking the public for input as it analyzes its current staffing resources and reconsiders how it deploys officers around the city.

This week, the city posted a survey online to collect feedback about what kind of services community members want, and what their priorities are.

The main question is not whether the city should hire more officers. But, rather, the city wants to know: Would community members prefer a larger beat that’s always staffed, or a smaller beat that sometimes has no assigned officer? That approach is, perhaps, understandable given the city’s current budget situation, and the fact that even a new officer hired on to the department makes over $100,000 a year once all is said and done. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley city budget in good short-term shape, but problems loom with pension costs

New parking meters with credit card payment options are part of the goBerkeley program. Photo: Steer Davies Gleave/goBerkeley
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When the Berkeley City Council held a worksession on the budget on Feb. 25, there was good news and bad news.

The good news is that Berkeley’s revenues are up and expenses are down in the current fiscal year. Using very conservative forecasts, Berkeley budget manager Teresa Berkeley-Simmons projected revenues in the 2014 fiscal year will be $800,000 ahead of the budget passed last June, and expenses over $2 million lower. As a result, so-called carryover expenditures — from revenues accumulated in previous years for as-yet uncompleted projects — will be reduced from $6.3 million to $3.3 million.  … Continue reading »

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City Manager Christine Daniel details Berkeley’s finances

City Manager Christine Daniel, leaving for the deputy position in Oakland. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Isabelle Gaston, president of the North East Berkeley Association, recently did an email interview with Christine Daniel, Berkeley’s City Manager, about the financial health of Berkeley for NEBA’s newsletter. Gaston provided the interview for reprinting on Berkeleyside. It has been edited to conform to Berkeleyside style:  

Gaston: How would you characterize the overall financial health of the city? 

Daniel: The City of Berkeley weathered the financial downturn better than many jurisdictions. While reductions in staffing were felt throughout the city organization and resources for a variety of programs were reduced or eliminated due to decreased funding from sources such as the state and federal governments, Berkeley property values remained relatively stable compared to values in the region, and sales taxes, while suffering a decline in FY 2010, have recovered.  However, property transfer taxes suffered a significant decline which affected the city’s ability to invest in infrastructure maintenance. Those revenues are now beginning to recover, but are not yet at pre-recession levels.  … Continue reading »

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