'We plan to fight': Oakland divided over $62M budget cuts, likely to impact police, public safety

Mayor Schaaf says no police or firefighters are being laid off, but the cuts could impact special units and response time.

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Thursday, December 24, 2020
Oakland's $62M budget cuts to impact police, public safety
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The city of Oakland says it could run out of money by June 2021, the end of its fiscal year, if it doesn't make cuts now. Some are worried about the impact this will have on police and public safety.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The city of Oakland says it could run out of money by June 2021, the end of its fiscal year, if it doesn't make cuts now.

"Every day that we delay taking action, means the cuts will be have to be deeper later," explained Edward Reiskin, Oakland City Administrator.

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He spoke at an emergency city council meeting ahead of a vote on salary deferrals for some of Oakland's highest paid city employees.

Reiskin says Oakland faces a $62 million budget shortfall, brought on in large part by the pandemic, even though he admits the city's revenue problem is a carry-over from last year.

"Our revenues (were) lower than anticipated last year fiscal year, and that trend has continued to this fiscal year, which has put us at a $62 million gap," he said at the emergency meeting.

The city has already announced $30 million in cuts, which includes $15 million to the police department and $5 million to the fire department.

VIDEO: OPD chief responds to criticism on release of violent crime data amid budget cut debate

With her city council and police commission debating ways to cut her budget by nearly one half, Interim Oakland Police Chief Susan Manheimer defended the release of statistics that show a recent surge in violent crime.

"No firefighters or police officers are being laid off. We will still have the manpower, I should say person power, to serve the city. But some of these special units will be impacted and the response time may be impacted," says Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

During public comment, some argued that the city is scapegoating the police and fire department for what really is "reckless spending" by the city.

"We plan to fight in court in arbitration and in the public, about this violation of our contract," said Zac Unger, an Oakland firefighter, who spoke during public comment.

City Council President, Rebecca Kaplan, says the city has an additional $30 million in cuts to consider in January, which will likely impact parks, libraries and senior services. She wants the city to re-evaluate outside contractors, as one way to save the city money.

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"And extra consultants that are being used at a cost of millions of dollars. And so all of those are things we will be fighting for in January," says Kaplan.

Kaplan has also been critical of police spending. "By far, the overwhelming cause of this crisis is unbudgeted police overspending. That one department went $32 million dollars over budget. Which means they spent money that wasn't lawfully allocated to them."

The city insists these cuts apply only through the end of this fiscal year, which ends in June, hoping federal or state aid will help restore critical services.

"I am hoping by making these hard but decisive cuts right now, we can build a new budget that looks forward to an economic recovery starting July 1st," says Schaaf.