Sacramento City Manager John Shirey released a proposed budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year Monday that includes funding for the replacement of two firehouses, more than $2 million to study ways the city can encourage residential development downtown and money for park upgrades, homeless services and police force diversity efforts.
For the first time, the drafting of the budget was driven largely by Mayor Kevin Johnson and some council members. Sacramento’s budget has historically been written entirely by the city manager. The elected officials asked for more than $23 million in new spending; Shirey’s budget includes nearly $19 million from that list.
The city manager stressed that after years of cuts, this was “a good-news budget.”
“This budget shows that economic recovery is happening in Sacramento,” he said. “Yes, there are still storm clouds on the horizon. But this budget has many good things for the citizens of Sacramento.”
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On public safety, Shirey is recommending spending $1 million on a police hiring strategy aimed at recruiting more women and minorities to the Police Department and $10 million to replace firehouses in downtown and South Natomas. There is also money set aside for police sensitivity training.
Another $2.1 million would be spent to hire consultants who would help the city craft new policies aimed at encouraging faster development of downtown housing. Shirey said that could include writing an environmental review document that applies to the entire central city and efforts to streamline the permitting process for development. The mayor has set a goal of adding 10,000 new housing units to the central city over the next decade.
The city’s parks system would receive $2 million for “significant repairs and improvements” to facilities and $1.5 million for recreation programs. The city’s housing-first plan to address homelessness would get $1.1 million.
The budget also includes spending on programs Shirey acknowledged he did not support, but were requested by the mayor and council.
Shirey said he was not supportive of the $326,000 proposed for an independent budget analyst that the mayor and council have sought. He said it was also “certainly not my recommendation” that $167,000 in money received from cellphone tower leases be redirected from the general fund to the council and mayor’s budgets.
The budget does relatively little to address the city’s long-term risks. While $5 million is being placed into the city’s economic reserve in the current fiscal year, Shirey is not recommending adding to that total in the 2015-16 budget. The reserve stands at $34.1 million, or 8.6 percent of the total general fund budget.
Shirey also recommended placing $1 million into a trust to pay for future retiree health benefits for city employees; those contributions would continue every year for the next five years. The city’s unfunded liability for retiree costs stands at $452 million, according to the budget.
Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at sacbee.com/citybeat.
Proposed budget highlights
▪ $10 million to replace firehouses in downtown and South Natomas
▪ $2 million in repairs for parks
▪ $1 million to improving hiring of women and minority police officers
▪ $1 million into a trust for future retiree benefits
▪ $2.1 million to study speeding up approval process for downtown development