Sacramento City Council approves final budget

The Sacramento City Council late Tuesday approved a budget that amps up spending on firefighters, police officers and parks and relies partly on revenue from a temporary city sales tax hike set to expire in 2019.

But three council members refused to support the budget, which they said was not aggressive enough in saving money and prioritized the wrong things.

Tuesday’s vote was the final word on a budget that has undergone several revisions since it was introduced in late April by City Manager John Shirey.

What’s in the budget

The spending plan focuses heavily on public safety, parks and the restoration of city services. It includes funding for the replacement of two firehouses and more than $2 million to study ways the city can encourage residential development downtown. It also includes money for park upgrades, homeless services and diversifying the Police Department.

On top of that, the council voted last month to add $6.9 million in expenses that include more staffing and an additional firetruck and ambulance for Natomas, jump-starting a gang-prevention task force and opening a community counter where people may raise public safety issues.

The budget was created this year with unprecedented input from Mayor Kevin Johnson and some council members. The spending plan includes five positions that would boost the mayor’s staff from seven to 12 and increase spending by nearly $700,000.

Split support

Johnson is among the two-thirds that voted to endorse the budget Tuesday.

“We have approached this budget in a fiscally responsible manner. We have ensured a surplus for the second straight year,” Johnson tweeted Tuesday. “While there are issues that still must be addressed, we are in a much stronger fiscal position today than we have been in years.”

But City Councilman Steve Hansen, a vocal critic of several aspects of the spending plan, including the addition of five mayoral staffers, voted against the budget. He was joined by council members Jeff Harris and Eric Guerra.

“The city budget we are voting on tonight represents a spending spree that can’t be sustained and sets the city on a path for huge deficits in just a few years,” Hansen posted on Facebook. “While there are positive parts of it, I will not support an overall budget that will put us on an unsustainable path. We can do better than this.”

Some of the detractors’ long-term concerns arise from a deficit that city staff has projected will hit the Sacramento’s general fund by 2018.

Measure U money, collected in a temporary tax hike that voters approved in 2012, should continue to bring in about as much as the city is expected to spend, given its current commitments, leaving a reserve of about $29 million through fiscal year 2017-18 – more than enough to cover the city’s $8.4 million general fund deficit expected that year, according to city staff.

But when Measure U money runs out, a staff report shows, the city will have a nearly $35 million hole to fill in both general fund and Measure U commitments by fiscal year 2019-20.

Marissa Lang: (916) 321-1038; @Marissa_Jae