The Berkeley City Council determined funding allocations for fiscal year 2022 and the city’s legislative platform for next year at its regular meeting Tuesday.
The council unanimously passed Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s budget proposal. The budget will fund regular city maintenance, in addition to initiatives addressing inequity, public safety and security. Big-ticket items include an $819,000 investment in cybersecurity for telecommuting needs, a $1 million allocation to cover police overtime and a more than $700,000 increase in legislative assistants’ salaries and fringe benefits. The budget also allocates funds to keep the city’s near $69,000 enterprise Zoom license to ensure the council can continue holding its meetings remotely during the pandemic.
Despite the fact that this fiscal year saw the onset of the pandemic and shelter-in-place, the city is ending 2021 with money left to allocate to council members’ priorities. Councilmember Sophie Hahn said Berkeley is fortunate relative to other cities for this reason.
“Fiscally, things are looking up,” said Councilmember Kate Harrison during the meeting.
In comments following Arreguín’s budget recommendations, Harrison requested a $200,000 allocation toward the city’s climate goals. Residents, including Kelly Hammargren and Andrea Malarky, spoke in favor of this request during public comment.
Several residents also spoke against a $1.3 million allocation in the budget for security cameras. In the end, the $1.3 million surveillance investment remained in the budget while the suggested $200,000 climate fund did not.
After public comment, Councilmember Terry Taplin emphasized the need for surveillance cameras in South and West Berkeley to curb gun violence.
“We’re at a point in the gun crisis that the urgency is impossible to ignore,” Taplin said.
During the meeting, the council also accepted revisions to the city’s 2022 State and Federal Legislative Platform. Priorities that made the list include affordable housing, climate change, COVID-19 recovery, privacy, transportation and wildfire prevention.
Council members also voted unanimously to explore charging for street parking Sundays in Berkeley. The council directed city manager Dee Williams-Ridley and the city’s Transportation Commission to consider matching the days street parking requires payment to the days off-street garages require payment.
Public comment on the issue was split in support and against the proposed change. Former council member Cheryl Davila spoke against eliminating free street parking Sundays and said it would have a negative impact on churches. Former Berkeley mayoral candidate Aidan Hill also spoke against the change and argued that Berkeley families do not need the extra stress of having their cars towed.
The revenues generated by charging for street parking Sundays would likely offset losses to the Parking Meter Fund incurred during the pandemic and support pedestrian and bicycle facilities around the city.