Though City Council Avoids Layoffs, Other Programs Denied Support

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Analysis: Berkeley city budget

Assistant News Editor Stephanie Baer answers questions from News Editor Javier Panzar about the state of the Berkeley city budget.

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Though the Berkeley City Council managed to adopt its budget for the next fiscal year without implementing 30 proposed layoffs at their Tuesday meeting, council members denied a separate proposal that would have saved Willard Pool from closure this summer.

The balanced budget reduces city expenditures by about $11.9 million and increases revenues by $4.3 million. Due to the agreements with Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Public Employees Union Local 1, the city will eliminate 47 vacant positions and defer 30 layoffs through reduced work schedules and voluntary time off, saving the city almost $2 million.

To cut costs, the city will close some offices every other Friday, while the council will consider implementing a diversion fee that would raise $1.5 million in additional revenues next week.

Though several groups - including the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, Options Recovery Services and Willard Pool supporters - approached council members asking for last-minute support Tuesday, further access to the city budget was not granted and the "Worthington/Wozniak Sacrifice" proposal was denied.

The proposal would have transferred $184,000 from Districts 7 and 8 budgeted street repair funds to fund summer operational costs for Willard Pool - which will close July 1 - as well as the Options Recovery Services program, Seismic Safety Improvements program and Youth Spirit Artworks program.

Under the proposal, one street in both Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Gordon Wozniak's districts would not be repaved "in order to protect the survival of necessary community programs."

"In giving something up in our districts ... we have an opportunity to fund four important things and all seven of the other council members don't have to give up anything from their districts," Worthington said. "If you're driving through District 7 or District 8 you might hit a pothole ... but in the meantime ... keeping these programs going is so essential."

While Councilmember Max Anderson supported the proposal, Mayor Tom Bates and other council members shared concerns that the proposal discriminated against other city groups.

Councilmember Linda Maio said she would like to keep the city's public pools open, but added that she was "uncomfortable" with the proposal because it left out many city programs that desperately need funding.

"There are people who are not here tonight who would make a case for urgent need funding," Maio said. "They didn't lobby us for more funding because they believed it when we told them that we really didn't have the money and they accepted their cut."

She mentioned the Women's Daytime Drop-In Center as one such group that "did not have the stamina to stay" for the entire meeting, which adjourned shortly before 11:30 p.m.

"It's very uncomfortable to me to make a decision tonight on behalf of a particular group and have the rest of the people who have urgent needs silent and not represented here," she said. "I want Willard to be open ... but I have a real problem making a decision around this when we have a bigger pie that we're not considering at all."

Anderson said although it is difficult to leave programs without these funds, the council should not deprive the South Berkeley community of its pool.

"To me that's not a good enough reason not to take advantage of the situation," he said. "We can't fund everything, but that doesn't mean we don't fund nothing."

While Councilmember Laurie Capitelli said the proposal was a "creative idea," he said he was concerned postponing the paving of the two streets would cost the city even more money.

"We're pushing that project off for a year maybe which means that the projects we have for the next year will be pushed out a little further," he said. "I know streets aren't very sexy, but the reality is that the longer we wait to repair our streets the more it's going to cost when we finally get to it."

When streets are removed or deferred from the yearly paving process, they are reevaluated within a pool of streets, possibly deferring the pavement of other streets, according to Claudette Ford, director for the Public Works Department

Despire the proposal's failure Worthington, Wozniak and residents said efforts to save the city's pools will continue.

"We have not gone away," said Robert Collier, co-chair of the Berkeley Pools Campaign. "The concern of the people of Berkeley for the pools and for public recreation in general is really heartening ... the pools issue will be back in many ways, in many times, in many forms and we'll be back."


Stephanie Baer is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

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