City Council adopts budget to reduce deficit

Derek Remsburg/Staff
A demonstrator holds up a sign at the City Council meeting Tuesday night. The council adopted a city budget after efforts to divert funding from city paving to social service programs were unsuccessful.

Efforts to divert about $105,000 in funding from city paving programs to some of Berkeley’s social service programs were unsuccessful when the Berkeley City Council adopted a city budget Tuesday night, though about $36,000 in other funding remains unallocated for the time being.

Facing a projected $12.2 million deficit for fiscal year 2012 and a $13.3 million for fiscal year 2013, the balanced budget reduces city expenditures by over $5 million and increases revenues by about $1.2 million over the next two years.

The council also approved budgetary amendments from Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Linda Maio, which allocated about $114,000 to city programs, relying on a two-year allocation of about $27,300 in funds not used by the South Berkeley YMCA Learning Academy and about $86,778 one-time-only general funds.

The Youth Engagement, Advocacy and Housing program also decided to forgo about $45,000 in funding from the city, allowing the council to allocate that money to other programs. About $9,000 of that was given to the Cinco de Mayo and Stonewall festivals, which now leaves the council with about $36,000 left to distribute. This will be revisited at the council’s July 19 meeting, according to City Manager Phil Kamlarz.

However, about $105,000 of the $2.7 million Kamlarz proposed for city paving projects was sought to be  directed to city social service programs.

“The question is, when we’re laying people off, when we’re slashing social programs for so many communities, why is it written that we have to increase paving by this many hundreds of thousands of dollars?” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington at the meeting. “We can increase paving — we just can’t increase it that much.”

Originally, about $150,000 was proposed to move from the paving budget, but that amount was reduced when the funding previously allocated to YEAH was taken into account. In order to see this proposal followed, Worthington proposed taking the entire amount from his district, though both motions failed to gain enough support.

Councilmember Max Anderson,  who proposed allocating $264,078 to city programs — $114,078 from extra city funds  and $150,000 from the paving budget and YEAH — was critical of others on the council for using the budget as some kind of “blood sport.”

Given the council’s inability to decide where to allocate all of the funds, Maio suggested the council pass the main portion of the budget and revisit the remaining funds later — a motion the council followed.

“We’re not at our best here tonight,” Maio said.

Also on the line at the meeting was funding for city pools. Willard Pool closed last year, and the Warm Water Pool will be torn down in December.

The approved recommendations from Bates and Maio request more information about possibilities for revenue enhancement as a result of expanded pool use and comparisons of cost projections with other neighboring areas, which will come back to council in a report no later than Sept. 30.

But Worthington and Councilmember Darryl Moore recommended the preparation of a report regarding the therapeutic benefits of warm pools and recommendations for a new warm pool as well as pre-bond planning for all four of the city’s pools. Anderson’s recommendations included $40,000 in one-time expenditures for pools.

“The budget is a reflection of our priorities — what we believe as a city,” Anderson said.

J.D. Morris is an assistant news editor.