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Cities ask for help fighting state borrowing proposal

Submitted by on 1, May 26, 2009 – 5:50 amNo Comment

California cities are fighting a state proposal to “borrow” $2 billion from them to balance the state’s budget, including $2.4 million from the City of Alameda. And their lobbying group, the League of California Cities, is looking for your help.

In addition to asking city officials to send letters to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other state leaders, they are asking business owners and just plan regular folks to join their “Save Your City” campaign. (Not to be confused with Save Our City! Alameda, which is a separate, local group.)

The League and the California Redevelopment Association are asking folks to join the coalition by signing an endorsement sheet that says:

Cities are under tremendous financial strain in this economic climate. This is authorization to list our organization publicly as a member of the coalition of organizations, businesses and citizens who support SAVE YOUR CITY: the Main Street Recovery and Protection Campaign, shielding local funds from State raids. City Governments are already making difficult economic cuts and decisions of their own, and redevelopment is the State’s ONLY ongoing economic stimulus program.

Last year, the state was set to take $917,000 from Alameda’s redevelopment agency (though it looks like the California Redevelopment Agency has successfully fended this off in court?). Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant just laid off 40 city workers (the total cut was 64 positions) in order to balance Alameda’s budget for the next 24 months.

At last week’s City Council meeting, Gallant suggested the council consider using some of its cash, slowing internal repayments of worker’s compensation balances, spending some of its equipment maintenance money or taking $1.5 million owed by Alameda Municipal Power in “return on investment” to the city in order to cover the potential shortfall. (The state’s Department of Finance, which came up with the proposal, suggests paying the money back in 36 months.)

According to the League, 100 cities have declared a “state of severe fiscal hardship” (the list includes Albany, Fremont, tony Atherton, Palo Alto and surprise, Vallejo). Gallant told the council that Alameda wouldn’t qualify for such a declaration, because the city’s finances are not in bad enough shape.

Still, Councilmember Lena Tam, who’s involved with the League, said local folks are starting to worry about potential buget cuts next year.

“We have received over 100 letters from students at Lincoln and Otis school urging us not to cut the crossing guard program.  Further borrowing or take aways from the cities will compromise our ability to provide essential public safety services,” Tam said.

Anyway, if you’re looking to sign, the form is here.

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