Monday Poll: How you would balance Alameda’s budget
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.