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Monday Poll: How you would balance Alameda’s budget

Submitted by on 1, April 11, 2011 – 2:27 pm24 Comments

Last week we asked our readers how they would balance Alameda’s budget, in the wake of revelations that the city would be facing major budget deficits over the next five years. We wanted to know what you’d cut, where you would raise money and what services matter most to you. Here’s what The Island’s readers had to say.

Nearly half of the roughly 100 readers who answered our non-scientific, four-question budget poll last week – some 48 percent – said they would cut spending, while 42 percent said they’d cut spending and raise revenues and 6 percent would focus on raising revenues.

The first thing the majority of readers who took our poll said they would cut was employee benefits, with 47 percent saying that would be the first budget cut on their list. Nearly a quarter – 23 percent – said they’d trim salaries, while 14 percent would approve furloughs, 11 percent would cut programs and 3 percent would start cutting Alameda’s budget by laying off staff.

Of the poll respondents who said they’d raise revenues – and 45 percent of you said you wouldn’t consider any of the options in the poll – 18 percent would raise existing fees, 15 percent would implement an admission tax at the local movie theater and 13 percent would hike existing taxes, with 8 percent saying they’d ask voters to approve a parcel tax for public safety.

That said, 42 percent of poll respondents said they believe police are the city’s most important service and 20 percent said the fire department is most important, while 14 percent think parks are a top priority and 8 percent, libraries.

“Maybe I’m still facing a bit of sticker shock, having just moved down here from Seattle, but I don’t think any part of this state needs to raise taxes,” a reader named Ben wrote to us last week. “They need to get their budget in line and stop putting a band-aid on it in the form of tax increases.”

Other readers said city workers – and specifically, public safety workers – should take reduced retirement benefits.

“Long story short, Alameda and other cities cannot afford the cost of post-retirement costs for public safety atop that the cost of the current workforce,” reader Neal_J said.

Tom Schweich said leaders need to talk about the rest of the city’s budget – and not just its general fund budget – and that economic activity in Alameda needs to increase. But he said city workers should get 401(k)s instead of their existing defined benefit plans.

“That’s what happened to most of us in private industry,” Schweich said.

24 Comments »

  • John says:

    I would take 35-38% of the General fund and use that for all Labor costs including benefits and pensions. Then list out all the jobs you need for the City. Go from there.

    I think the citizens of Alameda are drowning in excess fees and unrealistic salarys and compensation packages while we are watching our assets disenegrate. Pools..Streets.. Parks…Golf Course..Schools ..ECT…

    It’s time to reinvest in our city.

  • John says:

    Public employees are grossly overpaid with excessive retirement packages. Start there.

  • Allen says:

    The current conservative push to demonize public sector employees while ignoring the much more serious depredations upon society by the uber rich, remind me of the remark by 19th century robber baron Jay Gould: “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”

  • LC says:

    If you want to save money, job out Fire and Police like other Cities have done. But Don’t expect to get the services or knowledge of the job. It like going to homed depot to get the job done.

  • John says:

    Who needs budgets. Madoff had no Budget. Lets just Spend all the money on us.

    I’m the uber rich Allen.

    We have about 600 employees. Total employer contribution to Retirement fund 128,000.00 or about 213.00 per employee per year. They have been in business 90 + years. Total Retirement fund about 18,000,000. Or about 30,000 average per employee. Some employees have been there 40+ years. You need more info?
    Health Benefits are partially paid by employer.

    Family of 3 for Kaiser cost employee 1040.00 a month deducted from check.

    Family of four 1410.00 deducted from check

  • Mark Irons says:

    “John”, we can just burn down the entire city and then we can lay off the entire fire department. Great savings there.

    On Kaiser, I’m familiar with their plan which has rates for single person, one dependent, and then three up to whatever. Where did you get the formula for family of four?

    You’ve been trotting out this alleged 600 employee, 90 year old business since the parcel tax and it’s suspicious and tired example. If you expect anything you post to have serious credibility, why not come out of the closet and cop to who you really are?

  • John says:

    I don’t need to hide behind anything. I have seen your attacks last two months on anyone who disagrees with you. I don’t really care what you think. I care about this City and it’s citizens as a whole and have lived here more than 50 years. I have no political agenda except say what I think is in the best interest for everyone. If it doesn’t make you happy so what. I still think I am entiltled to give my opinion.

    I will give you an update on our Kaiser plan because it is going up May 1st.

    Presently this is our program.

    Health Benefits are partially paid by employer. Family of 3 for Kaiser cost employee 1040.00 a month deducted from check. Family of four 1410.00 deducted from check

    • John Piziali says:

      John, if you live in this city and really care about it, and have something important to say why would you not want to use your name. Do you understand that no one knows if what you are saying has any truth behind it. You just stated in your post above “I don’t need to hide behind anything” so why are you hiding ??

  • MorelandDrive says:

    I would like to see one Alamedan who is not a firefighter or police officer who agrees that it is reasonable to provide lifetime free health insurance after just five years on the job.

    I appreciate and respect our public safety officers, but I don’t view this as a budget balancing issue, I see it as a fairness issue. I believe that the unions have negotiated excessive packages for these employees. I think the union leaders are out of touch with the working people of Alameda when they defend these excessive packages. They simply do not realize how high these salary/benefit packages are in relation to the salaries of the taxpayers.

    The best thing would be for the police officers and fire fighters to sit down and be honest about their compensation packages, and offer the people of Alameda a serious concession.

  • Mark Irons says:

    I don’t care what you think of me either John, but everybody knows who I am. Like you haven’t been on the attack, you hypocrite. Calling what I have posted an attack is just a feeble attempt to side step the real issues. It’s not about me, among other things, it’s about your disingenuous propaganda which should not be trusted. That’s not an attack, that’s a challenge to somebody who is a blatant manipulator to knock off the crap.

    • John says:

      I’m ” hypocrite passing out disingenuous propaganda not to be trusted and a blatant manipulator”. and your John Kennedy…LOL

      Give me a break. Mark you attack people with any idea that doesn’t agree with you.

  • John says:

    Getting back on subject:

    How you would balance Alameda’s budget?

    I would take 35-38% of the General fund and use that for all Labor costs including benefits and pensions. Then list out all the jobs you need for the City.

    I think a combination Paid and Volunteer Fire Dept to Alameda would be great for the community in many respects. Huge resource of qualified candidates chomping at the bit to work in Fire Dept and as EMT’s.

    Identify jobs that could be handled by part time or volunteer or students. Library and Parks ECT.

    Evaluate each position objectively and look at value of each position and then look at compensation packages for each of those position.

    Look at job market for those positions and what skills are needed to handle position and set range that would be fair to the tax payers that are paying the employee for that service.

  • Mark Irons says:

    John, you can continue to deflect attention from the point I am making about your anonymity and method by impugning my behavior, like characterizing my legitimate objections to others points of view as “attack’ or calling them “antics”, but if “you don’t need to hide behind anything” quit acting like the Wizard of Oz with you magic numbers and reveal who you are so we can better judge your ideas in the context of your role in the community. You seem to need the last word, so I’ll leave the anonymity subject here.

    On substance of the topic, for not just fire fighters but teachers you seem to like numbers in the low to mid- $40,000 as some perfect number for what people whose salary is derived from taxes should make. You have repeatedly used a mythical company of 600 employees, etc.for various comparisons, but the comparisons are meaningless because we don’t know if that company is a service provider, manufacturer, etc. You are very persistent and repetitive, which is why I’ve focused on your modus operandi, because it seems far more ideological than pragmatic, or genuinely aimed at bringing us as a community toward workable resolutions.

  • John says:

    The only myth is your own mind. Wake up to reality .

    How are you going to Balance Budget. Just keep attacking people that have actually worked in private sector and actually had to live and work on a budget.

  • John says:

    This is REALITY. Mine and the 600 people I work with.

    We have about 600 employees. Total employer contribution to Retirement fund 128,000.00 or about 213.00 per employee per year. They have been in business 90 + years. Total Retirement fund about 18,000,000. Or about 30,000 average per employee. Some employees have been there 40+ years. You need more info?Health Benefits are partially paid by employer.Family of 3 for Kaiser cost employee 1040.00 a month deducted from check.Family of four 1410.00 deducted from check

  • John says:

    They filed BK in 1987 because of employee costs. They had to make the decision to either close or employees had to make concession.

    They would close in one day if they had to pay just the medical benefits of the employees. 600 people would be out of Work.

    You would probably think that is ok.

    We get hundreds of resumes a week people wanting jobs and knowing what pay is and benefits.

  • Carole says:

    City leaders cannot force employees to make concessions. Note what happened in Orange County when the county supervisors tried to change pension plans for existing employees:
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/04/13/state/n212156D00.DTL&tsp=1

  • Eric says:

    Perhaps Alameda should look to the model of Sandy Springs, Georgia:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8qFvo2qJOU

    They outsource everything but police & fire, and have no long term liabilities.

  • John says:

    General Fund Budget

    Public Safety $28,319,010 34.1%
    Government Services Contracts 24,850,000 29.9%
    Capital Improvement Program 16,700,000 20.1%
    All Other Departments1 9,059,392 10.9%
    Public Works 2,715,000 3.3%
    Recreation and Parks 1,425,000 1.7%
    Grand Total $83,068,402

    http://www.sandyspringsga.org/City-Departments/Finance/City-Budget/2011-Budget

  • John says:

    If we know that all these retirement,pension and insurance is NOT based on a sound actuarial principles and bankrupting city why has Council done nothing about it last XXX amount of years?

    Here is what City Charter States:

    Establish on or before July 1, 1938, a retirement, pension and insurance system for City officers and employees based on sound actuarial principles, which system once adopted shall not be amended except by majority vote of the full Council and shall not be repealed except by the People. Such system shall provide for the support thereof by deductions from the compensation of officers and employees of the City and contributions from City funds and funds under the control of the respective boards.

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