Oakland proposes a 12-day budget plan

May 29, 2008 11:51:24 PM PDT
The trickle down effect of the state budget crisis is reaching city employees in Oakland. A proposal on the table to save the city money would cost its workers.

Forced time off without pay. That's what could be happening to Oakland employees. The East Bay city is facing big budget problems but, a furlough would help close the gap.

Twelve fewer days at the museum, twelve fewer days at the library -- in Oakland, it's a possibility, now that the city is facing a $14.5 million shortfall.

"I think people want to avoid layoffs. And in some ways, it's a less painful way but it is a real cut in service," said Oakland City Council Member Jean Quan.

The idea was discussed at City Hall on Thursday night. Mayor Ron Dellums came up with the proposal, which would force non-essential employees to take one unpaid day-off each month.

It's a plan that would help close the budget gap by $4.4 million, but it's a plan that's facing strong opposition by union groups.

"We told you two years ago when you had a $14 million surplus of the general fund to take half that money and set it aside because the economy wasn't going to be good forever. If you had done so, that $7 million would be more than enough to cover the $4.4 that you're now trying to take from our paychecks," said Jeffrey Levin from Professional and Technical Engineers.

The city is still hammering out the details, but for the most part, non-essential employees include everyone except police officers and firefighters.

Workers whose salaries are partially funded by federal dollars are also exempt.

"Head Start staff will not be subjected to the shutdown. The cooks who cook for the head Start program, will not be subject to the shutdown. We're in the process now of putting all the classifications together," said Oakland city administrator Deborah Edgerly.

Oakland is just the latest city facing budget problems, in large part, due to the downturn in the housing market.

City leaders though are just thankful the situation isn't worse. Their East Bay neighbor Vallejo for instance, just recently filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

"We have to be pretty conservative. I think if we don't, any city in California now could end up like Vallejo," said Quan.

The City Council will discuss the issue again on June 11th, and vote on the 17th. Everything is on the table, including requiring employees who drive city vehicles to pay for their own gas to and from work.


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