Balance the Budget By July Or No Allowance, Stephen

By Steven Tavares

San Leandro’s budget will be balanced this June. Nobody knows if that will indeed be true, but Mayor Stephen Cassidy thinks the books will be reconciled without the need of short-term reserve funds. If it happens, it will be the first tme in four years the city did not dip into its savings. But, before any numbers are crunched, Cassidy thinks he can right the ship in just six months.

The San Leandro City Council will decide Tuesday whether Cassidy will be allowed to forego over $15,000 in salary through July 1. Cassidy ran on the pledge he would not take a salary as mayor until “expenditures equal revenues.” He never said how long that would take. According city documents, Cassidy is slated to earn $2,520-per-month in salary. The proposed ordinance, though, gives him the same benefits and reimbursements allowed to all membes of the council, including a small stipend for attending meetings of the redevelopment agency.

The vote on whether to approve the ordinance retroactive to Jan. 1 is contained Tuesday night within the consent calendar. The merits and political implications of the proposal will not be discussed unless a councilmember asks to pull the item for a separate vote.

Cassidy’s intention fits in line with campaign rhetoric asking every resident to bear some burden of the city’s sacrifice, but some councilmembers may view the plan as grandstanding. Early last year, Cassidy asked the council and then-mayor Tony Santos to go without a salary. Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak sounded amendable to the pledge, but City Attorney Jayne Williams told the council the charter forbid members from making any changes to their compensation until a new member is installed.

Part of Tuesday’s subtext will be whether the pledge by Cassidy is viewed as the new mayor one-upping his counterparts on the council or will they let the obvious political move pass without a dissenting voice.

Whether the city can balance its budget without using the little reserves left available is a tenuous situation. All indications are the worst has passed, yet Finance Director Tracy Vesely said last December she forecasts another year of flat revenues. To keep his pledge, Cassidy may have to pull a rabbit out of his hat or prepare San Leandro for another round of steep cuts to staff and services, which may have been the plan all along.