Rebecca Kaplan Oakland City Council At-Large

Oakland Community, Rebecca Kaplan, Call for Accountability For Unauthorized Overspending

Oakland — On Monday, December 7, 2020 the Oakland Finance Committee heard the FY 2019-20 Q4 & FY 2020-21 Q1 R&E Report. According to the Report from the Interim Director of Finance, dated November 30, 2020, “FY 20-21 year end expenditures are projected to exceed the budget for a total of $62.29 million deficit, which puts the City at risk for severe fiscal stress if not addressed.” The City Administration is asking for “fiscal corrective action” to be taken. Yet, despite claims over recent months that the main fiscal crisis was COVID-related reductions in revenue, those revenue reductions are smaller than the biggest source of our financial problems — that the Oakland Police Department (OPD) overspent their budget by $32.18 MILLION dollars.

City of Oakland Chart
City of Oakland Chart

In June, 2020, as a part of the Mid-Cycle Budget, Council President Kaplan successfully fought for a directive that would specifically require the administration to “provide tracking and accountability for unbudgeted expenditures” and set aside $8 million of OPD overtime to be held until after that process was done, to ensure that the budget, as properly and publicly adopted, is actually adhered to.

Kaplan stated, “We have not received the information yet about what the administration is doing to track expenditures, and to make sure they are in line with the adopted budget. That information should be provided now — as the unbudgeted expenditures by one department — the police department, now threatens the fiscal situation of our entire city, and has continued to get worse this year. Meanwhile, we are being urged to make cuts to other vital needs, and to harm departments that did not commit the overspending, while reducing vitally needed services for the public. Leaving trash on the streets, and failing to fulfill other funded needs endangers public health, while using austerity methods that cut jobs in times of economic hardship will only make the situation worse.

While it is undeniable that there are challenging fiscal times ahead for the city, it is important to bear in mind that austerity during a global pandemic is an attack on those who are struggling most in our community.

As we look at the City’s finances, we must also be mindful of the Oakland community. Thousands of people in our city face the threat of eviction or foreclosure. Nearly 125,000 in our East Bay region have lost their jobs. It IS the time for smart budgeting, budgeting that prioritizes the people of Oakland, and that requires that adopted budgets are adhered to.”

Several community members, and organizations voiced their concerns during public comment, demanding that the City of Oakland preserve city services and that the City Administrator hold Oakland Police Department responsible for their overspending.

Liz Ortega, Executive Secretary Treasure for the Alameda Labor Union, “ While I am heartened to hear the Administration wants to work with Labor, I am disappointed to hear about the way they want to go about it, including the cuts to many of the members that I represent. Oakland Police departments are Oakland’s repeat offenders, every year they have ignored the City Council’s legal limit on their overtime, every year they simply take what was not authorized, every year they get yelled at, and every year they do it again. So I have a suggestion today, rather than looking at cutting the jobs that keep this city moving, you should adopt a policy that reduces pay for every responsible administrator and fiscal officer by the same percentage as the police overtime is over spent.”

Kristen Schumacher, Research Specialist with IFPTE Local 21, “Despite the Administration’s claims to the $62 million dollar deficit, if you read the Q4 and Q1 report carefully you will see that the city ended last fiscal year with over $45million in General Fund Balance, while expenditures did exceed revenues this was primary driven by overspending and over policing of protest, while a number of other city departments actually came in under budget.”

James Burch, Policy Director for the Anti Police Terror Project, “ Right now is the time when Oakland needs to be reinvesting in protecting our community, the unhoused, vital public services and workers. To do so, we need to hold accountable those departments that are not doing their job, starting with the police. As was mentioned in the report, the Oakland Police Department overspent their 2019-2020 General Purpose Fund budget by $32.2 million with $19 million coming from overtime. In addition to overtime, we need to repurpose public safety dollars that are currently spent on policing the unhoused, to police those dealing with mental crisis , and to police non violent matters, which Oaklanders agree do not need law enforcement.”

Liana Molina, Oakland Campaign Director for East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), “We are in the midst of a public health and economic calamity. Budget cuts that will reduce critical services for our at risk neighbors would be disastrous. Our homeless and unhoused neighbors, workers, the disabled community, renters and struggling seniors all need assistance and support. Don’t let the Mayor and City Administration try and balance the budget on the backs of poor and working people, especially when the police department has been grossly irresponsible in overspending by tens of millions of dollars.”

This report is the beginning of the budget discussion that will take place next year. It gives us an opportunity to see what the Administration is planning, and what the Council and the community must do to have an equitable and just budget for the city of Oakland. We ask the administration to provide a clear response in terms of their development of tracking and accountability methods to ensure the adopted budget numbers are adhered to.

Monday, December 7th Finance Committee Agenda: https://oakland.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=A&ID=812543&GUID=CE3119F1-FF41-47C4-A81A-5701E2114501

Rebecca Kaplan is Oakland's 3-Term At-Large Councilmember, Oakland City Council President, and former AC Transit Board Member.

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