Berkeley City Council discusses Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s budget recommendations

zoom screenshot of a meeting
Rachel Raps/Staff
The Berkeley City Council Budget and Finance Committee discussed Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s proposed supplemental budget recommendations for the 2022 fiscal year.

The Berkeley City Council Budget and Finance Committee discussed Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s proposed supplemental budget recommendations for the 2022 fiscal year Tuesday.

Arreguín, alongside Councilmembers Lori Droste and Kate Harrison, examined various expenditures, encompassing increased budgets for the Berkeley Police Department, or BPD, as well as funding climate action.

His budget recommendations included increasing BPD personnel funding by $2 million to account for costs such as pensions and healthcare benefits, according to Harrison. While BPD’s budget increased, the updated funding is still less than BPD’s total costs sustained during the 2021 fiscal year.

The proposed personnel expenditures will also fund data analysts within BPD, Harrison added.

“Police are a very expensive resource,” Harrison said during the meeting. “To the extent that we can effectively use other people to do parts of this job, managing crossing guards, all the way to parking control officers … these huge costs will go down in policing, and I hope the public understands that.”

After Arreguín presented his recommendations, Harrison urged that he allocate $300,000 for electric vehicle charging stations — an item that had been deferred from the previous year’s budget.

Arreguín agreed to fund the charging stations by deferring funding for the creation of an electric mobility coordinator position within the city’s Public Works Department while filling any remaining deficit with “excess equity.”

As part of Berkeley’s commitment to environmental action, Arreguín’s budget recommendations incorporated $600,000 toward the establishment of a climate equity action fund. Arreguín, who co-sponsored the project, noted the money would fund investments such as electric bikes and other forms of electric transportation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“The idea behind it is to build the capacity for the city to have an infrastructure in place so that we can implement these types of projects in the future,” Arreguín said during the meeting.

He said he viewed $600,000 as a “reasonable” amount to launch pilot projects with “some sort of impact” and that the committee can always increase funding for the initiative in the future.

The committee also discussed creating an ambassador for Willard Park. Unaffiliated with BPD, the park ambassador would work seven days a week handling park-based problems and maintenance, according to Droste.

During public comment, members of the Berkeley community voiced both support and criticism of the committee’s decisions. Many vocalized gratitude for the committee’s commitment to climate action while a few expressed concern over redressing racial disparities tied to policing.

“It’s been a challenging process,” Arreguín said during the meeting. “I really think that we have a thoughtful and balanced budget that prioritizes long-term fiscal health, economic recovery, infrastructure, public health, public safety.”