Council member Lauren Hammond
Fewer police officers on the streets. Longer fire response times. And swimming pools shutting down. As Sacramento city council members learned at a budget workshop this week, the path to balancing the city’s $58 million shortfall won’t be easy.
The council held the budget workshop at the Oak Park Community Center instead of at City Hall. But if the goal was to engage the public, well, that didn’t work out too well. Only one person spoke during the public comment period, and most of the two-dozen people in attendance were city staff.
As for the budget talks, Assistant City Manager Gus Vina set the tone right up front.
Vina: “I don’t wanna deceive anybody that’s here. When an organization looks at a 20 percent reduction over a two year period, we are going to have service-level impacts in our community. It’s just gonna be impossible to avoid that.”
So city council members listened as six department heads outlined how they’d cut up to 20 percent of their budgets. Some of the most controversial cuts would be to public safety.
Hammond: “It’s the most in our budget and it’s what local government is expected to provide.”
Council member Lauren Hammond.
Hammond: “But we also can’t make all the cuts in parks and recreation because we’ll just be paying for it through police services because of the number of people that won’t be entertained.”
Both Hammond and Councilman Rob Fong declined to say where they want to make cuts, saying it’s too early in a budget process that won’t end until late June. For his part, Fong wants to focus on finding new revenue sources.
“We have to look at creating the right environment for investment in this city that creates projects that generate all kinds of things for us, from sales tax to property tax to transit occupancy tax, things of those natures.”
That might help in the long term, but the council still has to balance its $58 million shortfall by July 1st. That means council members will have to decide how much to cut from each department. Most of those cuts will come from reducing about 10 percent of the city’s 5,000 person workforce. The city hopes its voluntary separation program will convince police officers, fire fighters and employees in other departments to take buyouts – so the council doesn’t have to lay anyone off.