Oakland passes mid-cycle budget inclusive of Coliseum sale

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Wednesday, July 3, 2024
Oakland passes mid-cycle budget inclusive of Coliseum sale
After two days of debate, the Oakland City Council on Tuesday passed its $2 billion budget inclusive of the Coliseum sale.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- After two days of debate, in a five-to-three vote, the Oakland City Council passed its $2 billion budget, which Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao called "The public safety budget."

"This means that we are going to be able to continue to keep ceasefire, our CRT (crisis response team), our walking officers. So this means that Oakland will be safe," says Thao.

The general fund makes up 40% of Oakland budget. The police and fire departments make up more than 60% of the general fund. This budget cycle, which began on Monday, budgets for 678 police officers. It will freeze positions that remain vacant or through attrition. It funds three police academies. And allocates $39 million for OPD overtime.

It helps with violence prevention by adding five new ceasefire positions.

"While it has been complex, it has been very transparent," says Nikki Fortunato Bas, Oakland City Council president, in describing the budget process.

This budget does include the sale of the Oakland Coliseum, for which the city administration explains there still is no Purchase and Sale Agreement in writing. The proceeds are necessary to erase more than $100 million budget deficit.

RELATED: Oakland may have to declare fiscal emergency as it faces historic budget deficit

During Tuesday's discussions, Oakland City Councilmembers Treva Reid and Janani Ramachandran both called it "fiscally irresponsible" to pass a budget inclusive of the Coliseum sale.

"We are using the illusion of funds that haven't arrived. And that we don't know when will arrive to try to balance a budget. And this is a wildly fiscally irresponsible decision," says Ramachandran.

But Mayor Thao disagrees.

"We know, through negotiations, with how close we are in regards to the sale. And in order to continue with our services, whether it's public safety or clean streets, or economic development, we must move forward in this way, where it is fiscally responsible," explains Mayor Thao.

This mid-cycle budget comes with a contingency plan that will take effect if the Coliseum sale isn't actualized by September 1, which include millions of dollars in cuts.

President Bas called for a review of the contingency plan in the coming weeks with public safety leaders. She also acknowledged that Oakland's structural deficit remains an issue, but adds it was decades in the making. She also spoke of doing more around tax collection to help raise revenues.

RELATED: Oakland public services could face deep cuts amid city budget crisis

Meanwhile, the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) criticized the budget vote.

"The city's decision to sell its share of the Oakland Coliseum for $105 million, though temporarily preventing more severe cuts, only scratches the surface of our deep-rooted financial issues. This one-time cash injection doesn't solve the long-term budgetary concerns, especially with our unfunded pension liabilities over $2 billion," said James Burch, deputy director of APTP.

"Our city's financial woes are a direct result of prioritizing the police budget over critical public services. The continual increase in police funding, without addressing the underlying economic issues, is a short-sighted solution that places our city's future in jeopardy," said Cat Brooks, executive director and co-founder of APTP.

The unions representing Oakland city employees supporting passing the budget with the anticipated revenue from the coliseum sale.

"Brownouts for fire engines delay emergency response and endanger lives, especially now during fire season," said Zac Unger, firefighter and IAFF 55 president.

"Protecting our essential services is never a risk. It's an investment in the safety of our community," said lead electrician Michael Patterson, IBEW Local 1245. "The Coliseum sale is on track, and when the money comes in we will be relieved to have avoided all these cuts."

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