Tag Archives: Berkeley city budget

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

Christine Daniel
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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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Berkeley council looks to IT to transform city operations

An IBM AS/400 minicomputer. It was once high technology. Photo: nSeika
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Discussion about potential rival ice cream stores on Telegraph Ave. consumed nearly two hours of the Berkeley City Council meeting on Tuesday night, with supporters of the two retailers crowding the chamber. For the first public hearing on the city’s budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, and comments on the citywide work plan for FY2014? Less than an hour in a council chamber emptied of the public, but with every city department head in attendance.

But despite the apparent lack of public interest, a lively debate sprung up among council members about how the city should be using technology.

“We’ve cut our employees and we’ve cut our days of work and we’ve been able to maintain core services very well,” said Councilmember Susan Wengraf. “But as we continue to cut and try to be more effective we have to pay more attention to our technology department. This is basically the circulation system of the entire city. The key to becoming more effective in the future is to implement better use of the Internet and to get more efficient programs for whatever the city has to do.” … Continue reading »

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Dog license fees to rise, other Berkeley Council decisions

Animal services head Kate O'Connor in front of the new animal shelter. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Raised fees for a number of city services were agreed on Tuesday night by the City Council with relatively little debate and no public comments. Dog licenses will at least double: from $7.50 to $15 for a one-year altered dog licence and from $18 to $40 for a three-year altered dog license. Fees for animal adoptions from the city shelter are also going up.

Kate O’Connor, manager, Animal Care Services, said that her department estimated there were about 40,000 dogs in Berkeley. In FY12, 1,722 animal permits were issued (virtually all for dogs — she said only two cat licenses were issued). O’Connor’s estimate was that 20-25% of Berkeley’s dogs are licensed, which Councilmember Laurie Capitelli pointed out is probably an overestimate given the number of issued licenses.  … Continue reading »

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Pensions, infrastructure key Berkeley budget liabilities

Old City Hall. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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Berkeley’s City Council on Tuesday night received the first biennial report on the city’s long-term liabilities. The detailed breakdowns in the report from city budget manager Teresa Berkeley-Simmons make clear that the main areas with significant liabilities are police pensions, maintenance of city facilities, and watershed and storm drain maintenance and improvements.

Speaking about the presentation of the report, Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel said she hoped the Council would agree that budget reporting was improving generally and that the council members’ feedback would contribute to even more enhancements. She said the genesis of the current report could be traced back to 2005 when staff produced a report on employee benefits, then in 2008 when staff started putting information about unfunded liabilities in the budget document, and finally in the fall of 2011 when presentations were made on the status of capital assets and infrastructure. … Continue reading »

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