Prioritizing Future City Spending

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.

34 Comments

  1. Pier,

    All you are doing is trying to give the illusion you now support the SJPD. It is too late in the game for that. The incredible amount of talent and institutional knowledge that has left this department because of your policies, and fled to other departments or private industry can never be replaced. There are also many officers who are in the process of leaving this department. Maybe you need to concentrate on how to stop the bleeding of officers to other employers. SJPD staffing is down to half of what is should be for a city of its size, and shrinking. SJPD is also one of the lowest paid departments in the Bay Area, and on top of that pay 22% of their gross pay into retirement, which is the highest contribution rate in the country. Great recipe for attracting good applicants and retaining seasoned officers. That is probaly why there was exactly 1 lateral applicant when 50 police departments were informed SJPD was hiring.

    http://www.protectsanjose.com/content/“pension-reform”-results-mass-exodus-sjpd

    • I’m sure you’ll agree that 3 people are enough per engine instead of 4. Talent and institutional knowledge left the department primarily through phony disability cases. We will in the next few years have a larger force than we do now. I know you agree with this. One of the reasons will have been Measure B. And to those about to leave because they don’t like it here, don’t let the door…

      • Please confirm your facts: how many total FF departures were there in last few years; how many of those were due to disability and how did you determine what were “phony.”

        Oh you can’t—of course you can’t. It must because you are just inflammatory and spewing rhetoric you know nothing about. Why are you upset that someone is putting their life on the line and getting paid to do so? Why are you not upset about the gross, negligent spending of the City on non-essential services—like the 386M parked in reserves for special fund projects? Or the debt service for a city hall that is useless and costing more than the deficit or the fact the city failed to pay their share (while FFs paid theirs) into the pension system in good times letting the good returns make up for their share and which nearly wipe out the current deficit?  Why blame the employee for the City’s poor economic choices? 

        Good luck to you when they go to 3 man engines 9against safety protocol) and all the good FFs who can get higher pay, better treatment from those they serve and pay less into their retirement flee the City because of ignorant people like you.

        Because you obviously do not understand the demands of the job—I suggest you ask the FFs at one of the very busy stations to call you each time they get a call?  You can then turn on all of the lights, turn on your radio full blast, get dressed, drive to 7-11, buy a sugar soda, drink it and then come home and go back to sleep until they call again. This is what happens when a call is made but canceled.  That does not count the actual emergencies they respond to and which take much longer.

        Did you not see the recent study that shift work causes exponential health problems and 24 hour shift work increases the risks for high bp and heart attack even more.  So it is not just the inherent danger of the job (weird cancers, burns, death by any number of means etc) but just showing up that puts them at risk and you want to increase that risk.  You should be proud of yourself.  I bet you are raising your kids with just the best morals.

        • Between 2001 and 2008, 58 percent of sworn employees in San Jose retired on disability pensions. In Oakland it was 37 percent. So, do the math now, more than 50 percent more San Jose sworn employees than Oakland employees retired on disability pensions. And SJFD has 33 percent more people per engine than Oakland. Also, close to 90 percent of the calls were for non fire related reasons – EMS for instance. Please, you know some scamming is going on here don’t you?

        • Prescient,

          So I can better understand your “numbers” could you please state your source because for your reasoning to hold water I am assuming you are saying that Oakland Fire and San Jose Fire ran the same or close to the same volume of calls during your stated period which would help validate your increased % of disability retirements .

        • In and of itself, if for a given year, Los Angeles has 50% less disability retirements than San Jose, you know someones lying. Please don’t be one of the people who believe the Earth is 5,000 years old or something, You’ll lose all credibility.

        • Prescient,

          So once again you don’t state where your numbers come from?  Once again you fail to answer a simple question, are you stating that Oakland Fire Dept staffs it’s Engines with 3 firefighters?

          So first you are using Oakland FD numbers and your last post you are switching to Los Angeles FD numbers (with no stated source).  You are all over the place,  it’s no wonder your posts have no credibility.

          I do want to go on record as saying that I have no definitive knowledge of when Earth began.  See how easy that was!  I admitted I have no knowledge of something,  you should try it.

      • Prescient,

        “I’m sure you’ll agree that 3 people are enough per engine instead of 4.” If you had read my post closely, I mention SJPD, not SJFD. I know nothing of the staffing needs of the SJFD, as you apparently do.

        “Talent and institutional knowledge left the department primarily through phony disability cases.”
        That is such a completely stupid comment. It shows how very little, if anything, you know of what you speak. I have worked with these many, many officers that have left this department, and they are some of the most honorable, hard working, selfless, men and women I have ever known. Other departments and private sector knew this and hired them in an instant. None of them left because of a “phony disability case”. You are a moron if this is what you believe.

      • No dont the door hit you in the ***  Some of us grew up and have put many many years in unlike you…. slimy is the best way to describe you… I am a stakeholder and contributor unlike people like you who sit behind a keyboard and talk like a tough guy….

      • I would not agree, you constantly display your ignorance towards everything public safety related. Its because San Jose is cursed with ignorant people like you who voted for measure b that I am in backgrounds with 3 other departments. I will not miss working for this city at all.

  2. Forget about allocating additional revenue to the Planning Department.  It seems that most of their efforts are focused upon residential developments, which don’t add revenue to the City but, instead, wind up costing the city money through provision of additional services.

    As well, there’s no value to increasing the City Attorney’s budget, they’ll simply outsource litigation, as they’ve done so often in the past.

    Finally, I wouldn’t give the City Manager one thin dime to spend on discretionary projects.  She has proven many times that her discretion is worth even less than the message in a fortune cookie.

  3. Well, at least we’re talking about what to do with potential surpluses versus where to make more cuts. I would like to see a higher percentage allocated towards paying down debt. It will pay off in the long run and will help us get a better bond rating.

  4. The City does have surplus resources.  It spends over 1B on “special funds.” It has 386M parked in resrves in these special funds and over 46M in “unrestricted” spending for these special funds. 

    The city should be accountable for how the “unrestricted” dollars are being spent and why 1B needs + 386M in reserves to be in special funds and not part of the general fund to pay for essential city services. 

    Finally, 3 man engines is a disgrace. Although that may be what other agencies do, it does not meet the nationally recongized safety standard. The argument that because other agencies are doing it, it is ok is a joke.  We should not put our FF in unnecessary danger (even 4% of the time) when it falls outside these recognized protocols. It is the same argument as a kid saying “my friends are doing it so it makes it right and ok.” Would you let your kid jump off a bridge even if they might only get hurt 4% of the time.  Nationally recognized safety standards are what should govern not what’s popular.

    • You cannot be serious. San Jose has one of the lowest rates of calls per hundred thousand population and yet on of the highest disability rates. All this and our engines have 33 percent more people on them than other cities. 33 percent! That’s huge. I’ve seen these guys on calls were some guy passes out on someones front lawn and the FD sends out a truck with four people on it. Only two can do anything because it’s too crowded. I defy anyone to dispute these facts.

      • Oh it must be nice to live uninformed and ignorant. I am very serious.

        Station 2 has more calls than entire departments of surrounding citys.

        The city made a choice to have fewer stations (farther apart) than other cities but to staff them properly so that when a call comes they are prepared to handle the situation because they know they cannot call on another station as it is too far away and that was an economic decision and design by the city.

        If they increased the number of stations to be like those of their neighbors then they would double the number of fire houses.  Is that what you want?

      • Oh one more thing—33% is just because they are staffed according to national safety standars.  It means they have 4 to an engine not three.  Did you know that the independent group charged with invetstigating the deaths fo the two Contra Costa FFs a few years ago determined that one of the causes was that they they did not have 4 to an engine and recommended increasing staffing to 4 to an engine to prevent such tragedies in the future. 

        Maybe you should learn about how exactly it all works and do your homework.

      • it must be nice , TO THINK YOU KNOW EVERYTHING! Has it ever occurred to you , that this Fire Dept,  does more with less . The standard is 1 Firefighter per 1000 residents , San Jose is @ .45 Firefighters per 1000. If you want 3 FF per Engine , No One can enter a structure fire until there are 2 more Firefighters outside ready to go. It would also mean More stations , and more engines/trucks. San Jose Fire is around 700 strong. I dont know where you get your facts , or if you are just making them up , but San Jose has at least 5 Companies that are in the top 25 busiest companies in the country! Battallion 13 runs more call than most other cities, and cover an area the size of santa clara and campbell combined. but what the heck , lets thin them down some more.

        I like how you’ve “seen” SJFD in action . you know nothing of what you speak. On a respiratory distress, full arrest, trauma …….that victom/patient needs as many hands on them as possible. I wonder if you would be so full of yourself , if it was your significant other, or your child, or your parent. with the gaps that exist because of station closures and continued daily brownouts response times are extended , these guys/girls do the best they can to serve this city and even ingrates like yourself

  5. 3% to pay down debt, are you kidding how about taking 500 million from you hidden funds and start paying down city debt.  RDA, general fund. 

    The city is just like the state, hidden funds, and yet you claim fiscal emergency!

    50+ for police.  Come on, more cuts are coming, more retirements, more leaving for other jobs.  Really suggest you contract with SO and sell the substation.

    This city is going to @@##$%.

    So much for transparency!  If this were the case I would to start to take you seriously.

    Hope you have lots of hidden funds when Measure B is overturned!

  6. Currently,

    30 San Jose PD officers are in backgrounds with San Francisco PD;

    15 San Jose PD officers are in backgrounds with Redwood City PD;

    3 San Jose PD officers are in backgrounds with Livermore PD;

    3 San Jose PD officers are in back grounds with the Santa Cruz Sheriffs Office;

    And, these are only the ones I know about. Good luck PLO, I don’t know what you can do to stop the bleeding. Keep up the good work…

  7. I am intrigued by the idea that there is a better method for using the hundreds of volunteers who give thousands of hours to the libraries.  Perhaps in the future the council member could outline what that plan is.  He’s stated often that we have opportunities here, but I have yet to see a plan.  I truly would like to see our libraries opened.

    Reducing fire fighters per unit means that unit cannot enter a structure fire until a back up unit is on scene.  In these days of stations being browned out and considering the fact other cities have less ground to cover and stations that are closer together, this is a significant degradation of critical service; I want them breaking in my door if need be.  As for discounting the calls because they are medical calls, having watched the response efforts with neighbors, I would again hesitate to reduce the per person per unit numbers.  While my neighborhood does not see many calls for neighbors passed out on lawns, I do see (via PulsePoint) the frequent calls for medical service and I don’t think it makes a difference if you blow out your knee or back fighting a fire or picking somebody up off the floor or stabilizing a medical emergency.  The injuries suffered take the same time to treat; reducing the number of people who have to maneuver a body in a medical emergency is only going to increase, not decrease the number of injuries for first responders.

    If we are concerned about our cityscape maintaining trees, I would like to suggest that funds be directed towards the department that oversees tree removal and replacement.  There is currently a lack of ability to follow up on these issues. While the tree removal permit process is working better, the follow up to track replacements is non existent.  The public would also benefit from more frequent multi-family housing unit inspections because most sites get a partial inspection twice a decade.

    The true issue is the Whack-a-Mole scenario of budgeting.  The constant reaction instead of long term planning ensures we will never have a real process.  The person who is screaming the loudest at that point in time gets attention.

  8. Seeing big ole Councilman Constant on KTVU Fox 2 Report on Mass Exodus from SJPD‏, suggests how much he hates his former employer and how much he appreciates his disability retirement from the very same.

    To suggest other officers and new recruits will come here is a joke.  His statement other cities will face this doomsday (Measure B) is comical, trying to deflect the mass exodus of officers from our once great department.

    God’s Speed to any officer who can leave this city for better employement, and God Bless those that are left to serve this city council who could care less about public safety, you and your family.

  9. Prescient=Pete Constant…. Spewing your lies and venomous hatred for anything public safety. The numbers dont lie you misinformed troll! Burglaries and house fires are all up across the board. Crime especially is up with robberies and burglaries through the roof. Maybe when the mainstream media play their reports this week the average joe will see whats really going on. The funny part is that crime stats dont lie like prescient does…. IGNORANT LIAR