This is great news, but the question about appropriately funding the Landscape Lighting and Assessment District must be asked. I'm also curious to know what projects were removed from the City's vast list of reserves.
Real estate boom gives city a surplus
Oakland council uses windfall for repairs, police technicians and reserve
By Heather MacDonald, STAFF WRITER - OAKLAND TRIBUNE
OAKLAND — The city's $16.1 million budget surplus will be used to fund a variety of programs, including expanded tree trimming, roof repairs and three new technicians to analyze DNA in sexual assault cases.
The windfall, due to the still sizzling real estate market in Oakland, also will be used to bridge the $1.8 million gap in the city's Landscape and Lighting District created when voters rejected a proposed tax increase for park and open space maintenance.
However, several council members warned that the city's financial picture isn't as rosy as the surplus appears. Experts have warned that the housing market is showing signs of a cool-down, and the city's expenses are still outpacing its revenues.
During the 2007-08 and 2008-09 fiscal years, the shortfall in the assessment district will swell to $12 million, which could prompt layoffs and service cutbacks, officials said.
About $1 million will be set aside in a reserve, perhaps to be used to help close the anticipated shortfall.
The Oakland City Council Tuesday night approved a request from Councilmember Jane Brunner (North Oakland) to use $450,000 for tree trimming, which she said was badly needed.
In addition, Mayor Elect Ron Dellums will get $125,000, which he has requested to use to fund his transition into office, subject to the approval of theCity Attorney's Office. Mayor Jerry Brown also will get $125,000. The eight council members each got $250,000 to spend on projects or programs of their choosing.
Another $2.2 million will be used to repair the roofs of several city-owned buildings as well as the elevators at City Hall and the porch at the landmark Dunsmuir House.
The three DNA technicians, at a cost of $360,000, will work to reduce the massive backlog of cases that has allowed hundreds of leads to languish uninvestigated.
Damage caused by this winter's fierce storms would be repaired with $520,000 from the surplus. The total price tag is estimated at $6.1 million, most of which will be paid for by the state and federal governments.
In addition, the city's plan to put digital cameras in police cruisers will get $500,000, and another $470,000 will be used to beef up the city's personnel department.
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