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  Budget Update - Richmond City Council Rejected "Defund Police" and approved over $6 Million of Overtime Pay
June 12, 2020

The City Council continues to lurch towards a balanced budget, having adopted $19,791,840 of potential savings, leaving a gap of $9,752,031. Closing the gap, however, is becoming contentious.

Figure 1 - From June 9, 2020, Budget Presentation by City staff

Figure 2 - From June 9, 2020, Budget Presentation by City staff

City staff has proposed four budget scenarios to close the gap, all of which include some layoffs, some union concessions, or both. None include spending down reserves.

The unions responded with a proposal of their own that is based on a partial hiring freeze, additional cuts to departmental budgets and a $2,185,715 tap on the reserves:

Rather than push to impose labor and service cuts on workers and residents who are already understaffed and under-resourced, the Richmond Union Coalition recommends balancing the remaining projected $9.8M FY 20-21 Budget Deficit by the following combination of reductions/deferrals of General Operating Items and modest spending down of the City’s reserves: 

  1. Additional Departmental Savings beyond what’s already contemplated in the 6/2 budget presentation: $4,091,509
  2. Additional Vacancy Savings: $3,522,776
  3. Spend down a modest amount of reserves: $2,185,715

Total savings to close the gap: $9.8m

  1. Departmental Savings

Dept. Level Cuts/Postponements


5/22 list

6/8 list

City Attorney

 Travel and training



City Clerk

  Travel and training



City Council

 Travel, Sister City, computers,   furniture



City Manager

 Travel, Council retreats



Community Police Review

 Travel and training



Community Services

 Travel, computers, furniture



Economic Development

 Travel and training




 Travel and training




 Vehicle, consultant, computers, furniture



Human Resources

 Recruitment test materials, travel, compensation study



Internal Services

 Travel and training




desktop refresh cut




 Travel and training




Travel and training, facebook 



Neighborhood Safety

 Travel and training, computers



Planning Building

 Travel and training




$1.295m  vehicle replacement already in budget



Public Works

 Travel and training, vehicle replacement







  1. Vacancy Savings

Additional Vacancy Freezes:




Police Officer (8 FTEs)


Hard Freeze to avoid layoffs

Police Sergeant (4 FTEs)


Hard Freeze to avoid layoffs

Budget Analyst I



Payroll Supervisor



Crime Scene Tech



Senior Accountant



Park Cont $ Maint Worker



Equipment Operator



Equipment Operator






  1. Use of Reserves


  • The average Year-End reserve for the last ten years: $13.4 million.
  • Reserve Balance after FY19-20 cost saving measures: $17 million
  • If the City spends $2,185,715 of reserves as recommended to close out the remaining deficit, City would still maintain a reserve balance of $14.8m, which is above the 10-year, Year-End reserve average.

Source: Richmond 2019 CAFR p222.
Additional Departmental Savings:           $4,091,509
Additional Vacancy/Freeze Savings:       $3,522,776
Modest Reserve Spending:                    $2,185,715
Total Gap Closing:                               $9,800,000       

On June 9, the City Council focused on the hiring freeze, rejecting staff recommendations and adopting much of what the unions proposed. It was not possible to take action on the proposed departmental cuts because staff needs to research whether there are redundancies with cuts already proposed or other compelling reasons not to make the proposed cuts. The City Council took no action on the reserves.

The interaction between the unions and staff has not been productive. Staff recommendations have typically been available well before City Council meetings, while union recommendations come at the day of the City Council meetings and lack sufficient detail to fully evaluate. Instead of collaborating with staff to review possible cuts, the unions provide competing proposals at the last minute.

So far, the union proposals appear to appeal to the City Council more than the staff proposals. This is not surprising since City Council members depend heavily on union support for election campaigns.

Like city council and county boards of supervisors across the country, Richmond City Council member have received hundreds of cut and paste emails, similar to the one below (also see National Campaigns for Police Reform Reach Richmond, June 4, 2020).or Police Reform Reach Richmond

To Mayor Butt, the Richmond Board of Supervisors, and Richmond Elected Officers,

My name is XXXXXXX, and I am a resident of Richmond. This past week, our nation has been gripped by protests calling for rapid and meaningful reevaluation of the role of policing in our communities and an end to racism and anti-Blackness. Our city has been at the forefront of much of this action. Accordingly, it has come to my attention that the budget for 2021 is being decided as these protests continue. RPD has been a waste of our resources. Last year, the RPD budget was $74,990,406, the majority of which comes from the Richmond general fund. While we’ve been spending extraordinary amounts on policing, we have not seen improvements to safety, homelessness, mental health, or affordability in our city. Instead, we see wasteful and harmful actions of our police. I call on you to meaningfully restrict the RPD budget and instead use those extraordinary resources towards solving homelessness, which is felt most by our Black neighbors and veterans. Social programs and education generally have been shown to be much more effective at promoting safety and social equity than policing and incarceration. We can be a beacon for other cities to follow if only we have the courage to change. Can I count on you to consider an alternative budget that puts a focus on social service programs? Sincerely,


At the June 9 City Council meeting, during a budget discussion, the City Council tabled a motion to defund the police department ( . A motion to table cannot be debated, so there was no discussion

Motion to table. This motion, if passed, requires discussion of the agenda item to be halted and the agenda item to be placed on “hold.” The motion can contain a specific time in which the item can come back to the body. “I move we table this item until our regular meeting in October.” Or the motion can contain no specific time for the return of the item, in which case a motion to take the item off the table and bring it back to the body will have to be taken at a future meeting. A motion to table an item (or to bring it back to the body) requires a simple majority vote. (

The item drew a lot of media attention, including the ire of the unions. My motivation for the motion was not to actually dissolve the police department, which is obviously extreme, but instead to simply start a conversation about the police department that could result in funding changes, including millions of dollars in overtime pay.  After all, City Council members have collective received thousands of emails demanding to “defund the police,” many of which came from Richmond residents.

Richmond mayor raises idea of defunding police department
His idea is tabled amid comments, criticism, and pushback from other council members.

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt is shown in this Jan. 13, 2015, photograph. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group Archives)
By Jon Kawamoto | | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: June 11, 2020 at 2:27 p.m. | UPDATED: June 12, 2020 at 5:23 a.m.

RICHMOND — Toward the end of the nearly five-hour Richmond City Council meeting Tuesday, Mayor Tom Butt dropped a bombshell proposal — defunding the city’s police department to save $70 million.

His bombshell ended up fizzling out.

“Are you playing games at this point?” asked council member Demnius Johnson III. “Are you serious about this? I’d like to hear from the city attorney to hear what that process would look like because I’m pretty sure it’s not as simple as making a motion and voting on it.”

Butt said he was responding to the hundreds of emails he received in the past few days, suggesting the city defund the police department.

The calls to defund police departments has been gathering momentum across the nation since the Minneapolis City Council announced Sunday that it would defund and disband that city’s police department following the brutal and tragic police killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day.

The Richmond City Council has been working on cost-cutting measures to reduce its projected $30 million deficit for next fiscal year. So far, it has authorized more than $15 million in cuts, lowering the deficit to about half.

“I’m just trying …,” Butt said before council member Nathaniel Bates finished his sentence with, “You’re just trying to be Redd Foxx, the comedian. You’re trying to be funny, you’re trying to be funny.”

Interim City Attorney Rachel Sommovilla said the motion needed to be more specific and that it would be subject to negotiations with the police department and the police union.

“All right, Don Rickles, you are finished,” Bates said to Butt, referring to the deceased comedian. “Move on to the next item.”

But council member Eduardo Martinez seconded Butt’s motion “because I think this is a conversation we need to have; whether it’s a joke to the mayor or not is beside the point. What is important is that we have this discussion.”

Vice Mayor Ben Choi interjected, “I don’t think you look like Redd Foxx.”

Bates then made another, separate motion to table the issue.

Martinez disagreed, saying, “No, this is a discussion that needs to happen, and it needed to happen yesterday.”

“It’s not debatable, Mr. Eduardo,” Bates said.

The motion to table defunding the police department passed — with Butt and Martinez voting against tabling the issue.

Richmond resident Lyzy Lusterman watched the council meeting Tuesday and was alarmed by what she saw. Lusterman called the mayor’s motion “disingenuous, manipulative, and disrespectful.”

“With so many protesters and people in our city, county, country rightly demanding such change, I hope the mayor will cease his open, unapologetic derision in the face of public comment and get out of the way of his colleagues on the council so that progress can be made,” Lusterman said in an email to the Bay Area News Group.

Meanwhile, the Contra Costa Labor Council, AFL-CIO and Richmond city employee unions issued a response, saying they “denounce and decry the mayor’s tone-deaf, irresponsible and unreasonable actions at the Richmond City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 9.

“When the community stands up, proclaims Black Lives Matter, and demands change, that community deserves better than a mayor sarcastically making a motion to do away with Richmond’s police force,” the statement continued. “The mayor’s comments were intended to be divisive and trivialized the serious work Richmond city employee unions have done to find needed solutions to the city’s budget shortfall.”

11 Jun City Council Enacts More Hiring Freezes And Cuts Overtime
Posted at 18:20h in City Government by Pulse Editor 0 Comments

By Edward Booth

The Richmond City Council on Tuesday approved a slew of hiring freezes for vacant city positions and cut $1 million from overtime in an effort to fill in a projected deficit of $29.5 million.

Additionally, the council voted 5-2, with councilmembers Melvin Willis and Eduardo Martinez opposing, to change how city employees who can’t work during the COVID-19 pandemic are compensated, requiring them to use paid leave. Employees who don’t have paid leave can take unpaid leave or potentially file for unemployment. Previously, permanent workers received full pay without the use of paid leave.

The deficit, which is largely the result of lost tax revenues during the pandemic, was reduced by the council to about $9.8 million before Tuesday’s meeting, according to a staff report. The reductions on Tuesday add up to roughly $3.9 million, giving the council roughly $5.9 million in cuts left to make before adopting its budget at the end of June.

The actual savings, however, may be affected by excessive overtime spending, which is routine in Richmond, according to Mayor Tom Butt. Overtime pay is currently budgeted at $7.4 million, and city departments regularly exceed their projected overtime budgets by 50 or 100 percent, said Butt.

Butt suggested the council should reduce the overtime budget by half. He said that, at the end of the day, if the city manager told the police and fire departments they have no budget for overtime, they’d just have to deal with it.

“What we’ve seen is that, year after year, overtime has been abused,” Butt said.

One reason for high overtime spending in the Richmond Police Department is a large number of vacancies, according to Interim Police Chief Bisa French. The department has 35 vacancies overall, and 15 vacant police officer positions, resulting in mandatory overtime requirements, said French.

The department requires nine officers to be on patrol in Richmond at all times, according to French. The freeze could be detrimental to the police and overtime spending in the long term, French said, because it takes about a year after hiring an officer, due to required training, before they’re ready to fill positions.

The majority of the freezes approved Tuesday apply to the police department. Though seven of 15 officer positions were frozen at a previous meeting, the council voted 5-2 — with Butt and councilmember Nat Bates opposing — to freeze six of the remaining eight officer positions and three of four sergeant positions, adding up to a total savings of about $2.2 million.

The other frozen positions, from a range of departments, include a budget analyst, a payroll supervisor, a crime scene technician, a communications dispatcher, two equipment operators, a parks maintenance worker and a parking enforcement representative, adding up to about $706,818 in savings.

Councilmember Jael Myrick proposed the $1 million overtime spending cut, which passed 4-3, with Butt and Martinez voting against and Bates abstaining.

Myrick’s motion came as a substitute to the motion by Butt to reduce the overtime budget by half. Butt said the problem was that the city had never had a manager who would properly enforce the overtime budget. Myrick said that city workers would be working overtime regardless, and they had to be paid for their work.

“If we’re talking about cutting to the core, I just think we’re lying to ourselves,” Myrick said.

It is instructive that a city council known for its sometime radical social justice initiatives even finds the defund police” movement too extreme for its appetite. The Richmond Police Department has challenges like most police departments, and there are always better ways of serving the public, but abolishing the department and parceling all the responsibilities out to other agencies and community organizations makes no sense.

Richmond police, firefighters, other unions will hold car caravan protest to oppose Richmond mayor’s call for defunding police
June 11, 2020

Video screenshot of Richmond City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. From YouTube.

“Denounce and decry…tone deaf, irresponsible and unreasonable actions.”

Car caravan protest to be held Tuesday in downtown Richmond.

By Chris Flink, Communications Specialist, SEIU Local 1021

During the Tuesday, June 9 2020 meeting of the Richmond City Council, Mayor Tom Butt facetiously introduced a motion to “defund the police department and save seventy million dollars”. (See; at the 4 hours, 42 minutes, 14 seconds mark) Richmond is facing budget shortfalls, and has been investigating ways to close gaps between income and expenditures. During that process five unions worked to identify creative and common-sense ways to close those gaps without layoffs and service cuts, which would deny Richmond residents important services and take good jobs away from the city.

After Mayor Butt’s announcement, the unions and Contra Costa Labor Council wrote the Mayor and all City Council members the letter below.

A car caravan protest will be held Tuesday, June 16, at 4:30 p.m., starting at Richmond’s Main Library located at 325 Civic Center Plaza.

June 11, 2020

Richmond City Council
440 Civic Center Plaza
Richmond, CA 94804

Mayor Butt & Councilmembers,

The Contra Costa Labor Council, AFL-CIO and Richmond City Employee Unions copied herein (Fire Fighters Local 188, IFPTE Local 21, RPOA, RPMA and SEIU Local 1021) denounce and decry the Mayor’s tone deaf, irresponsible and unreasonable actions at the Richmond City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 9. When the community stands up, proclaims Black Lives Matter, and demands change, that community deserves better than a Mayor sarcastically making a motion to do away with Richmond’s police force. The Mayor’s comments were intended to be divisive and trivialized the serious work Richmond City Employee Unions have done to find needed solutions to the City’s budget shortfall.

Richmond City Employee Unions and their membership come to the bargaining table in good faith, intending to serve the community and make Richmond a fair, equitable place that works for all of its residents. It is clear and disappointing that the Mayor is not engaging in these conversations in good faith. In this time of global pandemic and a looming economic crisis, Richmond’s residents and workforce deserve leadership from the Mayor’s office, not trolling and tantrums.

On Tuesday, June 16, at 4:30 p.m., community and labor groups will join together for a car caravan in Richmond to continue the serious dialogue in the need for city services.


Contra Costa Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Fire Fighters Local 188
IFPTE Local 21
Richmond Police Officers Association
Richmond Police Managers Association
SEIU Local 1021

The motion by Butt was tabled on a 4-3 vote led by Councilmember Nathaniel Bates to  “table the entire discussion”, with Council Members Eduardo Martinez and Melvin Williams joining the mayor in opposing it, wanting further discuss ion of the idea.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

Figure 3 - Letter from Contra Costa Central Labor Council

I responded as follows:

I take issue with you characterizing my motion to “defund the police” as “tone deaf, irresponsible and unreasonable” as well as “sarcastic.”

Collectively, city council members and I have received thousands of emails demanding that we do exactly that, defund the police department, far more than on any other budget-related issue. Granted, such a request is extreme, and no one knows exactly how it might work. But we need to have a conversation about issues, alternatives and budgeting related to the Police Department, and my intent was to start it.

Obviously, my colleagues are not ready to begin that conversation. They reacted, instead, by cutting out 6 of 8 proposed new police officer positions and 3 of 4 sergeant positions, among other things.

Here are some RPD issues that need to be discussed:

As for the Richmond bargaining units and the Labor Council, I would advise you to do a better job of collaborating with city staff and using the bargaining process. Competing budget proposals are not helping. For example, instead of working with staff ahead of time to flush out millions of proposed departmental savings, staff now has to comb through your proposal to see if there are any fatal flaws and if there are redundancies with already adopted staff proposals.

The final issue I have been bringing up is overtime. See Ten Employees Cost the City of Richmond Over $4 Million, June 4, 2020. The top ten compensated employees in Richmond, other than the city manager and police chief, received nearly $1million in overtime last year. In Concord, a larger city than Richmond, the top ten employees received only about $150,000 in overtime. The RPD alone used $4.7 million in overtime last year, exceeding its overtime budget by nearly 40%.

I proposed cutting overtime in half, saving $3.7 million, but the City Council rejected it, dicing instead to reduce the overtime budget by a modest $1 million.

Huge overtime budgets, as well as routine excesses, are hard wired into the City of Richmond culture.

Figure 4 - From June 9, 2020, City staff presentation

Figure 5 - From June 9, 2020, City staff presentation

Figure 6 - From June 9, 2020, City staff presentation