Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2016  
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  Richmond Inches Towards a Balanced FY 2016-17 Budget
June 15, 2016

At last night’s City Council meeting, the city manager presented a list of proposed cuts in programs and services that will move the City to within $2.9 million of a structurally balanced FY 2016-17 budget that must be adopted before the end of June, leaving only two more City Council meetings to get the job done.

No one was happy with the proposed cuts, but the City Council gave approval with a four-vote majority with McLaughlin, Martinez and Beckles dissenting or abstaining.

The city manager went on to explain that the final $2.9 million would have to come largely from either additional contributions for OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits, i.e. health insurance) by city employees or from reductions in force (layoffs). The next two weeks will likely be dominated by potentially contentious negotiations between the city manager and public employee bargaining units. If agreements on OPEB reductions cannot be reached, some layoffs will likely occur.

Last night’s discussion was dominated by advocates, principally Beckles and Martinez, for retaining the position of fire marshal. The fire marshal has historically been the manager of Fire Department staff who perform plan reviews and inspections. Fire Chief Adrian Sheppard has proposed eliminating the fire marshal position and combining it with his overall management duties while expanding the number of staff who actually perform reviews and inspections. The authority for enforcing regulations of the California state fire marshal, largely contained in the California Fire Code, are already delegated to local fire chiefs.

Another proposal, promoted by SEIU and the City Council members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance to make up the final $2.9 million by extracting salary concessions from higher paid employees, has garnered little enthusiasm from either remaining City Council members or bargaining units other than SEIU. The proposal would extract no concessions from employees making $90,000 or less but would reduce salaries on a graduated scale with those at the top dropping as much as 38 percent. SEIU would be the least affected by such a plan while other bargaining units would bear the brunt. SEIU is an “allied organization” of the Richmond Progressive Alliance and holds a seat on the 17-member steering committee.