With Deficit Looming, Berkeley Looks for Cost-Cutting Measures

City May Cut Workforce, Raise Parking Citation Fines

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City Deficit

Carol Yur reports on the city's plans to deal with its deficit.

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The city of Berkeley may reduce its workforce and raise parking citation fines in an effort to bridge anticipated budget deficits over the next two years.

Berkeley expects to fall $3.8 million short in 2010 and face a $5.6 million deficit in 2011, according to Tracy Vesely, the city's budget manager.

The city could save about $3.6 million by cutting expenses and raise $2 million in new revenue primarily through increasing parking citation fees by $5, Vesely said.

But Councilmember Laurie Capitelli said the city needs to be sensitive about raising citation fees, which might make Berkeley less attractive to residents and visitors.

"I hear anger sometimes from constituents and people who come from out of town and they run five minutes late on parking meters and it costs them ... $45," Capitelli said. "It kind of makes it an unpleasant experience to come to Berkeley."

According to city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, the city collected about $10 million in parking citation revenue last year. But the city expects to lose $1 million during the next fiscal year because the state will collect more of its parking revenue.

The City Council plans to pass the budget for the next two fiscal years on June 23.

Over the proposed two-year budget, about 3 percent of the city's workforce will be cut, including a mix of vacant and filled positions.

However, officials emphasized that they will only cut positions as they become vacant, and that there are no plans to lay off any current employees. Fire and police services will also not be cut.

A state budget shortfall may also contribute to a loss of city revenue.

According to a recent report released by the California Legislative Analyst's Office, the state budget passed in February will fall short by $8 billion, Vesely said.

Public and mental health programs will also have to be scaled back as part of the city's cut in expenses, Vesely said.

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson said he anticipates more cuts during the next fiscal year, especially to health and social services.

"The only place you can really make those cuts is in health care, social services, the public works areas," he said.

The city and the county each receive about 50 percent of their funding from the state, Carson said.

City officials said they expect the state cuts to affect Berkeley's mental health programs.

The city's public and mental health programs were hit hardest by state cuts in the current fiscal year, but the city kept the programs running with $1.8 million set aside from a special reserve fund, Clunies-Ross said.

According to Vesely, the council can decide to use the reserve fund projected to help buffer the anticipated state cuts for the coming fiscal year.

The first public hearing on the city's proposed budget is scheduled for May 19.


Carol Yur covers city government. Contact her at [email protected]

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