Berkeley mayor presents recommendations to city budget committee

Photo of Berkeley City Council meeting
Andie Liu/Staff
Berkeley Major Jesse Arreguín proposes changes in budgeting and funding to different city programs.

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Berkeley City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee met Monday to discuss Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s supplemental recommendations to the proposed budget for the 2022 fiscal year.

According to City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley, the committee has made many changes to different versions of the budget.

“We try to take into account all the community’s concerns, all of the community needs as much as possible,” Williams-Ridley said in the meeting. “Really pushing our economic platform to rejuvenate our economy here in the city and carving out space to address many of the labor issues that we have on our table here in the city of Berkeley.”

Arreguín said his budget recommendations were sent out to committee members and staff less than 30 minutes before the meeting.

He began by breaking down the budget between the general fund deficit, American Rescue Plan, or ARP, and funding for a Health Equity and Innovation district consultant, which is a new referral from Councilmember Ben Bartlett. Arreguín proposed adding the funding for the new position to the ARP budget.

After discussing with the city manager, Arreguín said he decided to focus on “tier 1” projects and made a few adjustments. He suggested funding $510,000 for West Campus Pool tile and plasterwork through the November Annual Appropriations Ordinance.

Similarly, Arreguín also proposed giving authorization for police radio replacement but deferring the funding to November. For all the council referrals, which Arreguín said totals between $10 million to $11 million, he proposed funding $2 million in requests now, $220,000 in November and $1.8 million through other funds.

Of the $220,000 deferral, Arreguín included the Building Electrification Incentive Program and traffic and safety projects on 10th Street by George Florence Park and Ninth Street. Councilmember Kate Harrison expressed her opposition to deferring the electrification program, as she said it was already deferred two years ago and would implement electric charging stations in June 2022 if deferred again.

During public comment, members of the community supported and opposed the freeze on 30 Berkeley Police Department officer positions, expressed hope for the Specialized Care Unit and urged the committee to act on climate change through electrification or safe streets

The committee unanimously agreed to meet Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. to go through Arreguín’s budget more thoroughly before the City Council votes on it in the evening.

Assistant fire chief David Sprague and Jose Bedolla, chair of the Disaster and Fire Safety Commission, also spoke on the allocation of wildfire safety funds from Measure FF. Harrison asked for a commitment from Sprague for an earlier presentation of the budget next year.

“I’m glad we’re not voting until tomorrow,” Harrison said in the meeting. “I completely support this, but I can’t make decisions on this kind of time frame.”

Contact Andie Liu at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @andiemliu.