Thank you so much to Sarah Rabanales, our Sac State intern, for this detailed write-up! Read more about Sarah by clicking here.
On May 31st 2022 the Budget and Audit Committee met in order to vote on a number of items, including item 7, the Adoption of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022/23 Operating Budget and 2022-2027 Capital Improvement Plan (proposed City budget linked here). This discussion was kicked off by the City's Finance Director Emily Combs, who presented the budget in three parts; proposed changes to the budget, resolution changes, and requested changes on behalf of the Council.
City Council annually adopts the City's operating and capital budgets for a single fiscal year beginning July 1 and ending June 30 in the subsequent calendar year. Infographic taken from this City budget page.
With the proposed and resolution changes already being included in the budget’s forecast, Combs and Councilmember Guerra were looking for feedback regarding the requested changes on behalf of the Council and eventual approval of these requested changes.
The requested changes included: funding to improve Oki Park Open Space and Mae Fong Park, and additional funding for Free Fare Transit for Youth Program.
After the recap of this budget, the Committee opened up the floor for public comment.
During public comment, three out of the four commentators urged the Budget and Audit Committee to include funding for climate staffing. In light of the climate crisis we are all facing, it makes sense that these commentators are concerned. Most of this budget looks to increase revenue, and to improve parks, yet did not fully address the topic of climate justice AND/OR what can directly be done to combat the effects of climate change.
Kate Wilkins from 350 Sacramento specifically requested that the Council use its resources to hire more climate staff in order to implement the recommendations outlined in the City's Climate Action Plan
This call for action comes from the need for the City to hire more staff to help find creative and efficient ways to combat the climate crisis we face today, and especially to protect those most vulnerable to its effects.
After 3 public comments urging the members of this Council to add additional climate staff to the budget, the Committee unanimously voted to move this motion forward for final approval at the full City Council meeting on June 14th.
Instead of adding the appropriate amount of climate staff and resources for climate research, Councilmember Guerra answered these concerns by pointing out that he agrees with these calls for climate justice action, but that efforts such as the (aforementioned) Fare Free Transit for Youth Program and the manufacturing electric buses will further the ‘economic development side of climate change’.
While no one is denying that these efforts do contribute to the fight towards climate justice, it seems self evident that it would be more effective to allocate money towards hiring people dedicated to finding creative ways to combat climate change.
When facing the accelerating consequences of climate change, it is imperative to take action in order to protect those most burdened and affected by the climate crisis. This can be only done with effective and adequate staffing, especially as the Climate Action Plan is set to be implemented on July 1st.
So, what are some other important takeaways from this round of City budget hearings?
The main thing: this was another status quo budget, no important steps were taken in terms of enacting an equitable, socially just budget
Councilmembers spent a good amount of time scrutinizing community-based orgs working in areas like gang intervention - demanding specific metrics for measuring and tracking "success"
So, when Katie Valenzuela asked for the same metrics to be provided in regard to Sacramento Police Department operations, she probably was met with support, right?
She was not provided with these metrics (obviously), and was instead told her question would be added to the City Council log, to be discussed in the future
She was the only Councilmember who voted against the proposed budget
More on the police:
What's important to note: the Police budget EXPLODED
For years, the City Manager (Howard Chan) and the Sac PD have been obscuring the total police budget by treating Measure U funds that went to the police as special “labor & supply offset” costs, and listing them separately from the total amount approved for police.
Now, the City Council has authorized Howard Chan to realign Measure U funds, meaning that the Measure U funds dedicated to the Sac PD and Fire Dept were taken out of it. So, basically, what Howard did was put the Measure U funds given to Sac PD back into Measure U and took an equivalent amount from the city’s General Fund to give to Sac PD - showing the true police budget for the first time since Measure U was established.
This means that when Sac PD was presenting a FY 21/22 budget that was $165M (a record-setting amount) last year, their true budget was actually $211M with Measure U funds…
With this "realignment" the approved police budget for FY 22/23 amounts to $224M. You can read a brief budget recap in the Cap Radio article linked here.
A fun thing to keep in mind when thinking about the development of the City budget is that:
The City Manager is basing the budget on what he thinks the City Council will approve, RATHER THAN on what the community ACTUALLY needs. The City Council doesn't set any guidelines for the creation of the budget, so Howard Chan can basically do whatever he wants.