City Council approves biennial budget during Tuesday meeting

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Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to refer Mayor Tom Bates’ budget proposal to the city manager for review, with Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin and Max Anderson proposing additional increases in funding for community agencies.

The final budget will be approved at a council meeting next week. Before then, a four-person subcommittee will meet to further discuss the council members’ proposal — called the “Better Berkeley Budget” — and possible ways to integrate it with Bates’ proposal.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Worthington, Arreguin and Anderson each gave a synopsis of the contents of their alternative budget, focusing on how their proposal, compared with the mayor’s, gives more funding to community agencies such as WriterCoach Connection, K to College and the Berkeley Project.

According to Worthington, the city has received millions of dollars in revenue more than and spent millions of dollars less than what the budget projected. Given this, he said, it was unreasonable for the city to be conservative with its spending on community agencies.

“(Bates and Councilmember Laurie Capitelli are) planning on giving tens of millions of dollars away to corporate developers,” Worthington said. “So why do we have to cut tens of thousands to community groups that are taking care of seniors and youths and disabled and the poor?”

City Council also reappointed Julie Holcomb and Jim Novosel to the city’s Board of Library Trustees for a second term of four years. Holcomb and Novosel initially voted against renaming the Berkeley Public Library’s South Branch to include the name of the late Tarea Hall Pittman, a leader for black civil rights and a long-time South Berkeley resident.

Some members of the community and Anderson were against the reappointment, saying Holcomb and Novosel rejected the vote in the midst of a united community.

“I was called by Mr. Novosel, and we had a very deep talk — he had really regretted what he had done,” said Councilmember Linda Maio. “I think we have to get over this and help people learn from their mistakes.”

City Manager Christine Daniel proposed an update to the city’s hearing process, which was passed by the council but will not go into effect until Sept. 16. The council also approved some regulations on short-term rentals, which will now go to the city’s Planning and Housing Advisory commissions for further consideration.

Some future City Council meetings may be held in the Berkeley Unified School District’s board room after Daniel develops a schedule for a three-month trial period at the new location. The council will also hold a special meeting Thursday in Longfellow Middle School’s auditorium to discuss community benefits tied to tall Downtown Berkeley buildings.

Staff writer Mira Chaplin contributed to this report. 

Contact Sujin Shin at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @sujinjshin.