Coming to San Leandro, A Balanced Budget With Few Cuts

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

San Leandro is slated to pass its first fiscal budget in four years featuring very few cuts to staff and services, said city officials.

Although the city’s budget is bound to be balanced every year according its charter, the lingering recession led to excruciating cuts to staff and city programs along shortfalls as large as $7 million just two years go. The $72 million operating budget for 2011-12 is buoyed by nearly $2.5 in additional revenue derived from the passing last November of Measure Z, which raised San Leandro’s sales tax by a quarter cent to 10 percent.

City Manager Stephen Hollister and others reported a multi-year budget forecast that also envisions a balanced budget in 2012-13 until rising cost catch up with the city in subsequent years.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Tracy Vesely, the city’s finance director. Some changes could be made to the final budget scheduled to be submitted at a June 6 public hearing and she said the proposal is predicated on conservative numbers. Despite the increased sales tax revenue, the fiscal budget for next year still includes $1.1 million in cuts spread across all departments, Vesely said.

As oppose to previous years, cuts to various city departments were carved out on a case-by-case basis. In past years, reductions were made based on percentage with some departments hit vastly harder than others.

News of the budget though is tempered by continued estimates of a slow recovery both nationally and locally. Gov. Jerry Brown’s May budget revise released last Monday showed signs of a somewhat better fiscal future, but Vesely noted the announcement projects no increases in property taxes and San Leandro still lags behind the rest of Alameda County in sales tax receipts.

News of the balanced budget, or, as San Leandro Stephen Cassidy views it, when revenues equal expenditures, will be bring closure to his campaign promise to forego a salary as mayor. Observers of last November’s election were critical of Cassidy’s definition of a balanced budget, since the city’s budget has always been balanced by law as are other municipalities in California.

While Cassidy announced Monday night he would begin drawing a salary starting in July, he told councilmembers he would pay up to 8 percent of his pension out-of-pocket. He then asked his colleagues to do the same saying, “Leadership is also ultimately by example.”