Sacramento’s $961 million budget plan funds development efforts, homeless services

Sacramento would direct money toward development in the railyard and along the riverfront, as well as pay for homeless needs and after-school programs under a $961.1 million budget proposed Monday by City Manager John Shirey for the upcoming fiscal year.

Shirey’s budget calls for $1 million for homeless services, an expenditure that he sees as a more permanent budget fixture than in the past. The city hired a homeless services coordinator to manage city dollars and to collaborate with Sacramento Steps Forward and nonprofits providing homeless services.

The budget also includes $1.2 million in continued funding for the Mayor’s Gang Prevention and Intervention Task Force.

Shirey put the budget together after several months of polling and public meetings, plus input from the mayor and City Council. It marks his last budget before he leaves his post in November.

“I think this is a sensible budget that addresses the needs of Sacramentans, provides excellent services to them and also begins to address some of the special needs we have in the city,” such as gang prevention and homeless issues, Shirey said.

Councilman Larry Carr said he’s glad to see funding for gang prevention programs and after-school programs. In his district, $500,000 will go to installing modular facilities for a Boys & Girls Club adjacent to the Valley Hi library.

“You can always pick a budget apart, but when you stand back and look at it globally, does it reflect what we’re trying to accomplish?” he said. “I think, for the most part, it will.”

Proposed staff positions reflect continuing downtown development and a changing regulatory climate. They include an aide dedicated to work related to marijuana regulation, a project manager in the Economic Development Department focused on developing the riverfront and continued funding for a project manager for the railyard innovation district.

A little more than $2 million would offset budget shortfalls in the 4th “R” and START after-school and child care programs. Shirey said part of the funding problem is that the state hasn’t increased its contribution to the programs in several years. While 4th “R” relies mostly on family fees, the free START program depends largely on state and federal grants.

Rather than continuing to kick in millions of dollars in future years, Shirey said the city is looking to partner with nonprofits to deliver the programs in the long term.

Several requests made by the mayor and City Council in a February budget memo didn’t make it into Shirey’s budget plan. That includes money to rebuild Fire Station 10 in south Sacramento. Shirey said the rebuilding of two other fire stations, Station 14 in the River District and Station 15 in South Natomas, will cost $4.5 million more than anticipated and the city needs to complete those projects first. Some essential repairs were made at Station 10, he said.

The five-year forecast predicts a shortfall of $1.9 million as soon as fiscal year 2017-18. Last year’s budget anticipated a deficit for the 2016-17 budget, but the gap was erased by higher-than-predicted tax revenues driven by increasing property values, higher personal spending and falling unemployment numbers.

Councilman Steve Hansen said the budget makes clear that the city’s economy is improving, but he noted challenges in years to come.

One is the expiration date of Measure U in 2019. The voter-approved measure, which raised the city sales tax by a half-cent on the dollar in 2013, pays for a number of programs, including partially funding 15 new police officers annually. For the next three years, the city is relying on federal Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program grants to cover the remaining 75 percent of costs for those new officers. Thereafter, the city will have to pick up all costs for them.

Mayor Kevin Johnson recommended extending Measure U in his budget memo, but Shirey said he thinks the City Council should wait to have that conversation until 2018, when the deadline is closer.

As a precaution against future economic downturns, the city has been working toward a 10 percent reserve in the general fund. By directing an influx of cash from the state in August to the reserve, the city expects to hit that goal.

Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison

Related stories from Sacramento Bee