During its regular meeting Tuesday, which started nearly two hours behind schedule and adjourned at 11:45 p.m., the Berkeley City Council discussed the 2022 fiscal year budget and approved 37 items, including traffic calming measures and Willard Park ambassadors.
The traffic calming measures, authored by Councilmembers Susan Wengraf and Sophie Hahn, will provide $150,000 toward protecting pedestrians accessing Cragmont Elementary School. The measures followed the deaths of Anthony Rollins and Ruby Edwards in the car accident on Marin Avenue near the school.
The meeting was adjourned in Rollins’ and Edwards’ memories, along with the late former Claremont Canyon Conservancy president Tim Wallace and George Floyd, whose murder was one year ago.
The council also extensively considered the city’s 2022 fiscal year budget, as developed by the budget staff and budget committee.
Henry Oyekanmi, the city’s director of finance, said during the meeting that expenses in the 2022 fiscal year budget are expected to run approximately $20 million over budget. The budget committee, according to Oyekanmi, is expecting to make up the $20 million deficit with the projected increased revenue from business reopenings and increased economic activity as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down.
Oyekanmi added that the budget committee is also expecting a further 3% to 5% increase in property tax revenue for the city, which is in line with previous growth rates over the past few years.
Several residents said the city should revisit and reduce the Berkeley Police Department’s budget for the coming fiscal year during public comment.
The City Council will continue to consider the 2022 fiscal year budget throughout June and will adopt the final budget June 29.
“I want to extend my thanks to the budget staff and the budget committee,” Hahn said during the meeting. “We are in an unusual time where there is going to be a lot of grant money from federal, state and private sources … We shouldn’t miss out on money we could get.”
Councilmember Lori Droste authored an item that passed during the meeting, which will allocate $100,000 toward Willard Park ambassadors. The ambassadors’ objective is to maintain public safety amid unhoused residents that are allegedly creating “increasingly unsafe conditions in close proximity to children’s recreational areas and outdoor spaces,” according to the item.
The item also alleged that unhoused residents are relieving themselves in the park despite available port-a-potties, maintaining open fires and harassing visitors. The item also projected that Willard Park will have a further increased unhoused resident population following the planned shuttering of People’s Park.
The two proposed park ambassadors will likely be paid $22 per hour and work 12 hours every day of the week. The $100,000 allocated to the park ambassadors should be able to pay two to three ambassadors for one year.