At the upcoming Aug. 7 City Council meeting, the discussion will focus on how to prioritize city spending IF revenues increase. So, in the example below, if revenues increase by $10 million—either by revenue growth or tax increase—this is how I think it should be spent by percentage. We will still be spending money on all of the city services included in the current budget, however, this example is for future potential revenue that is above the budget passed in June:
53% — Police $5.3M
15% — Road Paving $1.5M
5% — Planning, Building & Code Enforcement $500K
4% — Libraries $400K
2% — Tree Planting & Tree Trimming by Our City Forest $200K
2% — City Attorney’s Office $200K
2% — Information Technology $200K
2% — Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety-slowing cars down in neighborhoods $200K
3% — Pay down Debt $300K
2% — Save Money for Rainy Day Fund $200K
10% — Discretion of City Manager with Approval by Council to be Distributed to Human Resources, Finance, Public Works, Economic Development and/or a Need That Becomes Apparent in the Future $1M
There is no extra allocation for the Fire Dept., as Fire Chief William McDonald and staff have been successful in obtaining federal grants. Federal grants are great in the short term, but they will make it more difficult to allocate future funds to hiring police officers—which is why the majority of future revenue is allocated to police. In addition, I agree with the 2011 Santa Clara Civil Grand Jury that San Jose could utilize three firefighters on a fire engine like every other city in the county. The data in San Jose shows that calls for service are 4 percent structural fires and 96 percent non-fire calls, mostly medical. Any cost savings from realigning resources to match call data should go to police.
We need to allocate general fund dollars to the Planning Department rather than increasing and relying on fees. Development can be sped up this way, increasing our tax base and private sector employment base to fund city services. Funding of Code Enforcement to keep our city safe/looking good and also could bring in revenue by assessing fines to irresponsible property owners—especially apartments that are ill kept.
Adding some funding to libraries is good, but much more can be done with volunteers to keep the doors open than is done today.
One way to make San Jose more visually attractive is through more tree planting, including maintenance, which also has other positive environmental attributes. Putting 5 percent aside to pay down high interest debt and save for a rainy day fund is prudent. Allocating something, even though small for Information Technology, must be done to achieve efficiencies and put a down payment on upgrading the financial software of the city to enable more sharing of financial information with the public.
The city manager, as chief operating officer, needs flexibility in allocating funds where the council or general public may not be aware of the need today. Of course, any action should require Council approval, but 10 percent between so many different needs may not provide enough. The city manager will have to make do.